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Voicification

Voicification

Voicification is operational change of products from physical to voice operated.

Overview

Voicification is operational change of products from physical to voice operated. The practice has taken over a number of apps, remotes, and other devices traditionally operated manually.

Voicification is a major trend, with the use of speech to interact with technical devices and services, increasing daily. Actions like operating the intelligent home, searching for and finding a favorite movie to watch, and scheduling an appointment are becoming voice operated.A 2018 PwC survey found that 90% of American respondents aged 18-64 were aware of voice technology, with 57% saying they have used voice assistants.

Voice is a natural interface for consumers, and as a result increases functionality and reduces struggle for complicated processes, such navigation, form filling, overlay menus and display operation.

The development of a voice platform requires the handling and interpretation of sensitive data. Voicification requires providers to create alternatives methods that meet the data protection standards under law.

AI assistants, synthetic voices, and realistic sounding voices are all becoming more developed as voicification pervades existing technologies and tools. Custom-branded voice assistants are expected to become more accessible through more channels, breaking away from traditional smart speakers and into newer hardware devices.

Privacy concerns

Every voice-controlled application or service has inherent privacy issues. It's the nature of the game of collecting data, particularly biometric data like voice data. Although end-users may not realize it, the only way a voice device can operate is for developers to be able to review the voice data they collect through software, human review, or a combination of the two.

Two main issues arise when it comes to voicification of applications, both accentuated by the fact that many voice-controlled devices are in people's homes, where personal information is protected by the expectation of privacy. The question of who is listening is one, creating need for transparency in the process of voice technology. Security risks also arise, with voice controls holding large amounts of data in offsite or cloud servers, which could become accessed by hackers.

The GDPR became active law in the EU on May 25, 2018, with the intention to make sure that individuals retain ownership and control over their data and to make data subjects are aware of who has their data and why they're using it. Voice devices must comply too, which is difficult with voice data because not all voice data counts as personal data, and it is difficult to sift through the large amount of voice data. As a result, voice-controlled devices have a large obstacle to cross to expand to global marketplaces.

Health risks

The shift to voicification is important when put in context of the coronavirus pandemic, which highlights the health risks for public objects that are touched by hundreds or thousands of people per day. This risk insight, which has become apparent globally, has driven a need for touchless functions. Point-of-sales, ticket machines, and food ordering kiosks are all key public terminals where voice control could be used to combat health risks.

Multiple startups and existing technology companies have already developed voice control applications for retailers to reduce the spread of disease. Circle K, Dunkin’ Donuts, and other retailers have all partnered with MasterCard to pilot a voice ordering artificial intelligence (AI) for their restaurant drive-thrus. The technology allows customers to speak into speakers and processes complex orders and substitutions as if the customer were speaking with a human being.

Even before the pandemic, McDonalds was working to incorporate voice-controlled automated ordering into their drive-thru and acquired speech-based startup Apprente in 2019. Since then, other companies have worked to introduce voice-activated services into public terminals, and hospitality industries like hotels or cruise ships have begun introducing these controls into their public tourist services.

Child services

Kidtech is a prime area of growth for voicification, with child-oriented web services, smart toys, and apps built specifically for kids using voice. Interacting with technology is still a fairly challenging experience for kids, especially when thinking about user interface attempting to accommodate kids’ limited reading ability and complex thinking compared with adults.

Children have grown up with smart speakers in their homes and are naturally suited to using voice to interact with technology. Interactive, engaging experiences for kids are easier to use when they include voice control.

Despite these positives for voice applications and controls for kidtech, parental privacy concerns have held back adoption and there has not been widespread adoption on the market. The COPPA provides strict consent requirements for collecting and storing the data of children under thirteen years of age. When devices record the voices of children under thirteen and don't have explicit, verifiable consent from the children's parents, then the owner of the device or product is liable in court for violation of COPPA.

IoT

The IoT makes it possible for everyday objects and tools to serve as voice-controlled portals for users to interact and control their devices. As people return to the workplace and resume daily commutes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a rise in voice-activated technologies is expected to extend to mobile applications, cars, public transportation, and other devices.

Smart speakers and digital voice assistants

According to the Society for Consumer Research (GfK), 34.3% of all German web users used digital voice assistants in 2019, with another 14.8% planning to try it out. The study identified the desire to have their hands free as the most important motivation for voicification technology.

Smart speakers and virtual assistants are a major market where voicification has taken off, with over 26.2% of the US adult population owning smart speakers in 2019. A Juniper Research report estimates there will be at least 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, compared to 2.5 billion in 2018.

While smart speaker technology has evolved, consumer acceptance of the devices has risen, with research showing perceived ease of use, quality, and enjoyment using the system strongly affecting the acceptance of the speakers.

Timeline

People

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Further reading

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Over 100 Voice AI Predictions for 2021 from 50 Industry Leaders - Voicebot.ai

Bret Kinsella

Web

January 1, 2021

Over a quarter of US adults now own a smart speaker, typically an Amazon Echo

Sarah Perez

Web

March 8, 2019

Documentaries, videos and podcasts

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Companies

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References

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