Voice authentication. Hearables. Neural Text to Speech. For voice tech enthusiasts like us, these are just a few of the innovations proving that voice is better than ever, and poised for a big 2019. We’ve spent the last twelve months immersed in this dynamic space with the world’s top brands, and couldn’t be more excited for the year ahead.
To get you thinking about “what’s next” in the voice landscape, we’ve tapped the RAIN brain trust for their predictions.
Fake news, meet voice — the arbiter of truth. Voice technology can impact the way news is delivered and consumed — no surprises there. But the discrete nature of voice assistant responses (where the user hears one, authoritative answer) is what sets this technology up to be the ultimate bearer of truth in the coming year. One news site = one likely biased opinion. So in times cluttered with algorithmic reinforcement of biases, can AI + Voice shine by distinguishing “fact” from “spin” in the news cycle — scraping sites and articles of all sides and kinds to deliver the single, amalgamated, non-partisan answer that people are looking for? Or will voice assistants merely have to “pick sides” for each politically-charged question they hear, surfacing answers half of us embrace and half of us reject?
Siri’s leapfrog moment. Apple didn’t create the first touchscreen, the first smartphone, the first MP3 player or the first personal computer. Instead, it has historically come in a bit later, with a “leapfrog” product — something that defined the potential for what each of these technologies could become. And when it comes to voice, the ubiquity of AirPods, paired with a proprietary data set of biometrics, will define Siri’s leapfrog moment in 2019. So while somewhat left out of the fray the last few years, keep an eye out for Siri next year.
The sleeping B2B giant. Companies are going to double down on voice as the technology to solve internal operating challenges — from logistics, to supply-chain, to performance, to analytics, and beyond. While most of the industry has been focused more on the consumer benefits to date, there’s a whole world of prime use cases set to impact efficiency in the workplace. Voice is fast, seamless and frictionless — and in the business world, time is money, and every second counts. Enterprise, prepare to be consumerized.
Giving new voice to voters (and politicians alike). As we get closer to early 2020 presidential bid announcements, voice will play a tremendous role in connecting with American voters. As a technology that offers personalization and intimacy, it will give voters the chance to actually ask questions of their candidates, in their own “town hall” style way. What about solving issues around voter turnout? Perhaps voting via voice isn’t too far off, either…
Voice-first production value skyrockets. Visual, touch, and gestural will continue to become integrated into what is now largely “voice only” experiences. This will make overall voice-enabled and -activated experiences richer, and more user-friendly, in turn increasing usage. Generations 2 and 3 (and beyond) of previously released voice experiences, along with new entrants to the space, will make use of new features like high production sound design and monetization to realize the true power behind voice as a means of connecting with the consumers. This means overall fewer, but better experiences.
The rise of the sensitive assistant. Voice experiences will transcend basic utilitarian use cases with a new understanding of users’ emotion and state of health. Given a patent was filed by Amazon in October to analyze voice in order to detect a “physical or emotional abnormality,” it shouldn’t be much longer before that’s a reality — and it’s certainly not hard to see the potential in biometrics + wearables. The more your hardware knows about your body, the more powerful anticipatory design becomes. “Based on your vital signs, you might have a heart attack in two hours — go to the Emergency Room now!” What’s more compelling than a digital assistant being able to detect and enable something like this? And back to the previous prediction, Apple’s unique data mesh makes Siri one to watch here in particular.
Crossing the fine line between engagement and addiction. Voice has emerged as the much-needed “responsible” tech choice amongst a backlash of black sheep options (mobile devices turn you into a non-verbal robot, social media promotes FOMO and makes you depressed, big tech is invading your privacy, etc.)… but while voice is currently viewed as an antidote for screen, how long before addictive voice experiences are developed? Big tech has mastered the art of capturing our attention and repeat engagement through mobile and visual media, and will soon develop a new playbook for how to keep people coming back with voice. Assistant platforms and developers (brands, media companies, etc.) will perfect the deployment of voice-driven notifications and reminders, narrative storytelling elements, competitive gaming dynamics, and integration of screens in multimodal experiences.
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