Sep 19, 2023
1 min read
Voice Assistant use has increased considerably over the past decade and has introduced many consumers to voice interaction. However, this model is actually not widely deployed. It seems very common because the tech giants have all introduced Voice Assistants and they are widely distributed through many of the most popular consumer devices, such as smartphones. However, there are many more Voice User Interfaces (UIs) deployed as a Feature in use today.
Navigation apps are a good example where Voice is a UI Feature. There is no attempt at conversation and yet nearly all of them now have the ability to accept requests by voice. The natural language inputs are followed by a visual response. That could be information about the intended route, a map, or both.
Banking apps provide another example. Erica from Bank of America, Eno from Capital One, U.S. Bank’s smart assistant, and Fargo from Wells Fargo all respond to inputs requested by Voice. None of them conduct multi-turn voice conversations. Why didn’t these companies simply replicate the model used by Alexa and Google Assistant? They didn’t need to. The Voice Input combined with a visual response was what added the most value to users.
Consider also the music streaming apps. Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify all offer Voice Search as a Feature for finding songs and to activate simple controls. While all of these implementations aside from Spotify are backed by Voice Assistants, they are still employed as simple, reactive Voice UIs. The audio response is typically just saying what song is about to play and then playing it - there is no back and forth conversation.
Voice UIs on smartphones work in a very similar way to Voice UIs for smart TVs. Cable and streaming television services are all adding Voice Search and Voice Commands for navigation and control. These solutions don’t pretend to make conversation. They respond to a request by loading information on a screen or by changing a television control based on the Voice Command. Voice UIs that simply respond to voice requests are actually far more common than Voice Assistants as a new Conversational Channel.
The more prescient question is why so many of these companies are implementing Voice UIs of any kind. When it comes to mobile apps and mobile web, voice is more effective than touch-and-type interfaces. There is limited screen real estate to place buttons and thumb-typing is terribly inefficient. This is particularly true when you need to offer open-ended input (e.g. navigation/mapping and music streaming) or have a lot of features that are difficult to display in a simple menu (e.g. banking apps).
Voice UIs are also increasingly viewed as an accessibility feature for healthcare-related apps. It is a safety feature in cars where automakers want to offer an increasing number of features but endless menus can distract drivers. Touch and typing interfaces are not going away. However, they are increasingly being augmented by Voice UIs because of constraints, convenience, and changing consumer preferences.
On that final point, smart speakers, smart home products, and automobiles are playing a big role. There was a time when using your voice to control devices was uncommon. That is no longer true. Many people are using voice both at home and in the car. This is planting new habits around the use and expectation of Voice UIs in everyday digital interactions. It is no longer news when a smart home device or car adds a Voice Assistant. Nearly all of them support Voice UIs.
This trend is continuing to expand into the mobile app space as well as the mobile web space, which is constantly adding new features to reach near parity with native mobile apps. And users want Voice UIs as a Feature as opposed to Voice Assistants, because they are a better match for user needs.
Speechly’s Voice Interface solution is aligned with these trends. If you want a full Voice Assistant, there are many solutions available from Big Tech, startups, and open source frameworks. However, the attention of developers, app and web publishers has shifted to solutions that can enable Voice UIs as a Feature.
Speechly offers a fast, accurate, and simple Voice UI API to build Voice Features fast. With Speechly any developer can be a Voice Developer.
In addition, Speechly delivers best-in-class responsiveness in terms of speed and has introduced a full duplex Voice Interface Solution for mobile, web, gaming, and the metaverse. There is no longer a need to wait for a Voice Assistant response. With Speechly, you can build solutions that simply react in real time to Voice Commands. And we are committed to providing the best Voice Interface solution for mobile app and web developers.
There are limitations with the Voice Assistant model, however there are tangible opportunities for Voice UIs as a Feature in our Web, Mobile, Gaming, and Metaverse applications. If these opportunities are of interest to you, consider checking out our full white paper on “Voice UIs as a Feature vs Conversational Voice UIs”.
Learn how Voice UI features are outperforming Voice Assistants.
Cover photo by Veri Ivanova on Unsplash
Speechly is a YC backed company building tools for speech recognition and natural language understanding. Speechly offers flexible deployment options (cloud, on-premise, and on-device), super accurate custom models for any domain, privacy and scalability for hundreds of thousands of hours of audio.
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