Monday, 16 september 2019 | Brenda Rodríguez López
The future always hides surprises. Could anyone imagine twenty years ago that we would prefer to chat with a virtual assistant rather than with a human being? Nonetheless, there are more and more people who, before checking a piece of information with a creature of flesh and blood, choose to ask their voice assistant. More and more people also decide to send voice messages to their best friends instead of writing or calling them. In fact, although it may seem paradoxical, younger generations, especially centennials, hate picking up the phone and love having a conversation with a bot. Why is this type of communication taking on a central role in the digital world? What is special about voice assistants that makes them so desirable? What can we expect from the development of this technology?
If something has changed in recent years, it is the pace at which we move. With just a click, we access hundreds of articles about a topic, we find the fastest route to travel to an unknown location or we use messaging apps that enable us to connect immediately with any of our contacts. On the one hand, these types of advances have contributed to carrying out thousands of tasks in an easy manner. On the other, they have made us develop less tolerance for waiting, expectation or delays. Whatever the outcome is, if we consider that we speak three times faster than we write, that voice is our natural vehicle of communication and that we are familiar with connectivity, the success of voice assistants was a really predictable event.
Assistants like, Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Assistant or Bixby enable us to search information in our smart devices and computers by just asking a question aloud. Undoubtedly, it is a very practical service, but this technology does not only offer this. With it, we can also buy, set reminders, make calls, listen to music, make the shopping list, control household appliances, etc. If we take into account that this technology has just taken off, a universe full of possibilities opens up. Indeed, we have yet to reach that future in which we will be talking with robots as if they were people, but the industry is moving in that direction. The commitment to computational linguistics is a proof of this.
The development and commercialization of smart speakers and voice assistants is gaining strength in the tech industry. According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, these technologies are already available in 80 countries and, behind the United States and Germany, Spain is the country in which they are penetrating the fastest. This newspaper also quoted the Strategy Analytics report, which reveals that the sale of these devices increased up to 96% (reaching 30.2 million units) in the second quarter of this year.
An example of how fast this technology is developing is the new initiative promoted by the CEU Cardenal Herrera University (Valencia) in collaboration with Amazon Web Services. Thanks to it, its students can use a virtual assistant in Spanish and English, either through their mobile devices or smart speakers. With a simple "Alexa, open CEU", the students can access a micro-application where they have a virtual learning space, customized alerts, requests for academic procedures, schedules, common spaces reservations, and so on. It is clear that these systems of Artificial intelligence may work as great allies towards academic progress. Some experts believe that this technology might even reduce the number of fails and the dropout rate.
Of course, the educational field is not the only sector that may witness this revolution. Today, most of the new generation cars have voice assistants. In addition, the automotive industry follows a clear direction: electrification, connectivity, shared mobility and autonomy, and this type of technology fits perfectly in this map route. That is why many firms work in collaboration with tech companies to develop new features that meet customer expectations. Some of them are even developing their own virtual assistants. That’s the case of BMW.
The way we interact with technology is also reflected in the way we consume. This means new sales modalities such as social selling. Voice commerce has signs of becoming a strong sector in relation to e-commerce. In CB Insights they point out three significant keys for this prediction:
At the CEU IAM Business School, we are aware of the fact that this is a time of change. Advances in AI, data use, connectivity and technology inspired by the use of voice apps generate new business models and, therefore, new opportunities for brands, consumers and professionals. That is the reason that has led us to design our Voice Tech Focus Program: a training course through which students can acquire an overview of the current state, use and main players involved in the universe of voice-enabled smart assistants and its impact on people and businesses. Ask for further information!