The Voice ‘Revolution’

Ella Barnett, May 29th

The Voice Revolution. Or y’know, just the process of reverting back to an interaction that we have been using since we originated as a species. The key difference? This time tech has a voice too.

This year (2018) there is an expected increase of 70.6% in the sales of ‘smart speaker’ voice assistants. Think Google Home or Amazon Alexa… or Siri if you’re a little behind the curve ball. In fact, a TechCrunch study estimates that by 2022, at least 55% of all American households will have adopted voice assistants.

But why are we surprised? Voice has always been considered the most efficient and effective way of communication in human society; from the initial grunting of the caveman, to Shakespeare’s masterpieces and finally, to the modern day voice assistants of 2018. To have a voice is to have power. 

PWC’s 2018 Voice Assistant study has unequivocally showcased that the ‘voice revolution’ is continuing to gain traction. With a 90% awareness and a 70% adoption rate, voice assistants are creating a new wave of consumer behaviour. With a significant amount (55-64%) of people from all demographics reporting to use their voice assistant much more than anticipated.

Think back. When was the last time you opted to search for something by voice? Was it to search for a show? Or set a reminder? What about the last time you chose to listen to a podcast instead of reading an article?

Voice as a tool is in some ways reversing the common criticism of ‘being antisocial’ that has come with the mobile device. 49% of millennials report looking at their phone less now that voice assistants are growing their capabilities. Furthermore, in a world with unlimited distractions, voice requires you to listen, focus and engage; you just can’t skim through voice content as you might with a written article. However, as providers continue to steer the tool towards conversational dialogue, you won’t want to.

Have any of you heard Google’s new voice assistant released this month? Just in case you haven’t, listen here and try to identify the real person from the assistant. This development was released and almost everyone went crazy! Not many people were aware that anyone was this close to artificial intelligence conversation in humanoid voices.

In fact, I went to a Voice & Creativity* panel discussion last month and they were saying that whoever gets this conversational aspect first, will win the market. But they were predicting it to be a couple of years out at least. Then Google goes and releases this ‘continued conversation’ feature! Not only this, but 6 different humanoid voices will be rolled out this year on all Google Assistants. Ever wanted a conversation with John Legend? That’s right. Google has created one of their assistant voiced to sounds like John Legend! Which means not only will you be able to converse with him but he can be your new assistant – oh how far he’s fallen… Plus, as an additional bonus, a ‘pretty please’ feature – again, because why not? When sarcasm becomes an added feature, that’s when I’m all in.

There is still some apprehension towards the so-called ‘voice revolution’ with privacy and trust being the two key factors. Especially as we trend towards purchases using voice – and make no mistake, we are trending in that direction. 50% of people using voice assistants have made a purchase directly from a vendor. Most are food-based, and very few people currently trust voice assistants to buy clothing or travel plans, but as people start to use voice more, they concurrently begin to trust voice more. This corresponds with continued developments of voice sensitivity and detection (being able to recognize specific voices), increased memory and higher conversational ability, which further increases trust.

Voice is going to continue to grow in popularity as the leaders in the field further develop the skill sets and sensitivity of their assistants.

So the point is, if you’re not on board with voice yet, get prepared because it isn’t going anywhere and is only going to get better.  

*Made in NY Media is putting on second instalment of their Voice panel, Voice & Education in partnership with Rain on June 14th. Highly recommend to anyone living in NYC and interested in voice.