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Voice technology is useful, in demand, and not moving fast enough

Innovations in voice technology will drive fundamental changes in consumer behavior in the next three years or less, a new study by AppDynamics reveals. After all, consumers DO want voice technology — even in the bathroom — and businesses need to closely monitor how trends in this sector are driving awareness and demand for voice-driven functionality just to keep up.

The new survey  — conducted by IT analytics company AppDynamics in partnership with Wakefield Research — polled 1,000 American millennials and 1,000 IT decision-makers employed in the retail, financial services, media, technology, and health care markets in early June 2018. The trends it reveals could be useful to companies who are keen to exploit the growing markets fueled by the rise of digital assistants and smart speakers.

The report cites a recent ComScore survey that predicts that all web searches will be controlled by voice by 2020. The thinking is that brand experiences, like the custom skills and functionality being pushed hard by companies such as Amazon, Google, and Walmart are pushing voice experiences into everyday activities like shopping and banking that were formerly either web or app-based experiences or even (gasp!) interactions with a real, live person.

The report puts a heavy focus on millennials, the majority of which (84 percent) said they rely on voice assistants to make their lives easier for things like keeping track of their schedule and responsibilities. Seventy-one percent of millennials indicated they use a voice assistant daily, while nearly half (46 percent) report engaging with a voice assistant five times a day or more.

IT decision makers also seem to approve of the utility and value of voice technology. Half of IT leaders say voice technology will lead to quicker response times. Nearly half (48 percent) say voice technology will help save money and lead to better service. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of IT leaders say they expect voice commands to completely replace manually typed commands for finding information on the internet. That enthusiasm may not be keeping up with the demands of future customers, however.

Clearly, demand is high and young people are interested. So, what’s the disconnect? Essentially, AppDynamics is saying that enterprise businesses aren’t moving fast enough to keep up with demand. Sixty-nine percent of surveyed IT decision-makers work at companies that plan to invest in voice technology within the next three years. More than half of those key decision-makers, however, believe it will take over three years for their peers to invest in voice technology.

Another big gap between the market and enterprise businesses points to the growing war between smart assistants such as Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon Alexa over who can produce the most accurate results. Of the companies investing in voice technology, 88 percent have a speech error rate over 6 percent, while nearly a third (35 percent) of companies experience an error rate over 20 percent. Over half (57 percent) of survey respondents said that ensuring that voice recognition is accurate is the biggest challenge.

Despite those errors, nearly half (47 percent) of millennials say they don’t review their voice-to-text commands for accuracy, but when they do, they find errors 67 percent of the time. Listed reasons include taking the wrong route via GPS commands, ordering something they didn’t want, and calling an ex-partner.

It’s a big shift, and anyone working with voice technology will discover some key recommendations from AppDynamics for moving forward. But there’s a little silver lining in the report that’s based on some very human desires. The company asked consumers what they wished a voice assistant would do for them. Over a third (33 percent) said to sing them songs or to give them compliments (31 percent). Other responses asked for voice assistants to comfort them when they’re upset, laugh at their joke, or to give them relationship advice.

Clayton Moore
Clayton Moore’s interest in technology is deeply rooted in the work of writers like Warren Ellis, Cory Doctorow and Neal…
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