Google Assistant first broke out of the phone and into the home via the Smart Speaker in 2016, following the Made by Google event. They also opened up access to 3rd party developers to build Conversational Actions for the smart speakers they released.
Conversational Actions, also known as Google Actions or Voice Apps, will “sunset” or shutdown in 1 year, on June 13, 2023. This will effectively end the development of 3rd party voice experiences on smart speakers and smart displays.
What does this mean for Voice Tech at Google?
Developers of Conversational Actions are being encouraged by Google to transition their Voice Apps into Android Apps which they can then Voice-Enable using App Actions with Android. App Actions enable users to say voice commands to quickly access Android App functionality. This is powered by Google Assistant’s intent mapping and Natural Language Understanding (NLU).
Google is also moving from “Voice First” to a “Voice Forward” narrative. This appears to be shifting their strategy around Voice Tech to be less conversational and more on getting tasks done by taking advantage of Voice alongside the screens found with many Android Devices. In the blog post covering Creating Voice Apps for Android Rebecca Nathenson, Director of Product Management writes, “Whether someone asks Assistant to start a workout, order food, or schedule a grocery pickup, we know users are looking for ways to get things done more naturally using voice.”. There is a focus on getting things done by Voice and not on starting a conversation - a juxtaposition from the “Voice First” narrative that has dominated the headlines for years.
Why is the Shutdown of Conversational Actions happening?
The Google Developers blog continues and gives further background on why Conversational Actions are being shutdown. Nathenson writes, “While Conversational Actions were an excellent way to experiment with voice, the ecosystem has evolved significantly over the last 5 years and we’ve heard some important feedback: users want to engage with their favorite apps using voice, and developers want to build upon their existing investments in Android. In response to that feedback, we’ve decided to focus our efforts on making App Actions with Android the best way for developers to create deeper, more meaningful voice-forward experiences.”
Bret Kinsella of Voicebot.ai also spoke on this topic saying, “This transition has been in process since at least Google I/O 2019 whether that was widely recognized or not. It was clear then that Google Actions were being subordinated within the Android ecosystem and that all of the incentives and organizational structure would drive an Android-first approach. This was bound to leave voice app developers in a difficult spot…”.
Validation of Voice UI as a Feature vs Conversational Voice UIs
At Speechly, we have built our technology from the ground up to support Voice UIs as a Feature in Mobile and Web experiences vs the traditional Conversational Voice UI experience you find with Voice Assistants. We have always believed that Voice UIs as a Feature are an inevitable step in the Evolution of UIs, before we will see Voice Assistants take root. Right now, Voice Features are delivering the most value in Mobile Apps and will continue to do so until Voice UIs become an expected modality for users.
It's great to see that Big Tech companies like Google, who have made massive investments in assistants, are realizing this. Voice UIs are at their best when adding efficiency in getting things done. This is only hindered by forcing users into a back and forth conversation with their technology.
How can Android Developers easily Voice-Enable their Mobile App?
With the Speechly API Android Client, Mobile App developers can easily build responsive, voice-enabled applications. With just a few lines of code you can add Voice UI Features to your application such as Voice Search, Filtering, Form Filling, Input, or Command & Control.
If you are an Android Developer interested in Voice-Enabling your application, check out the Speechly API Android Client on Github.
If you have a new use case in mind or need help Voice-Enabling your Android Application, reach out to the Speechly Team on our Contact Us page.
Cover photo by Thomas Kolnowski on Unsplash