Voice assistants will soon get all up in your shopping and binge-watching

Thanks to Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, voice technology has seen a huge surge in the last decade. But the voice assistant industry has yet to reach its full potential and may become an integral part of many apps we use every day.

In the coming years, we will see the arrival of new markets, applications and platforms for voice assistants that will go beyond the reach of incumbents, says Nick MacShane, founder and senior managing director of Progress Partners, a commercial bank offering mergers and acquisitions. . , capital raising and SPAC advice for emerging technology and media companies.

In an interview with TechTalks, MacShane discussed what to expect from the voice assistant industry and how innovative startups are making their mark in this sprawling market.

Mass adoption of voice assistants

Credit: BENCE BOROS / Unsplash

Voice assistants have several decades of history. But it wasn’t until 2011, when Apple introduced Siri, that they became widely available. Since then, the market has been growing rapidly. Microsoft and Amazon respectively launched Cortana and Alexa in 2014. Google launched its Assistant in 2016. And Samsung launched Bixby in 2017. They haven’t all had the same success, but they have caused a culture shift in the way people use their devices. . .

More than 50 percent of American homes now have a smart speaker. By some estimates, 128 million people in the US use voice assistants. Voice accounts for a sizeable portion of online searches and more than 50 percent of local business searches. And the use of voice assistants is growing in cars and other environments where users prefer not to be looking at or interacting with a screen.

More importantly, all of these numbers are growing year over year, which is indicative of the growing acceptance and expectation of voice features in devices and applications. The voice assistant market owes its growth to several factors: Advances in machine learning Y deep learning have improved the accuracy of speech-to-text technology. advances in natural language processing (NLP) and large language models have made it possible to execute more complex commands. TinyML has moved voice inference from the cloud to the edge. And the ubiquity of computing and internet connectivity has brought voice assistants in our pockets, on our wrists, and in our living rooms.

The limits of current voice assistants

However, the expanding market for voice assistants also highlights some of the shortcomings of the headlines.

“While voice assistants are one of the fastest growing consumer technologies of all time, current use cases are relatively simple, like listening to music or setting a timer,” MacShane said. “Over time, we expect the complexity of user interactions with voice technology to increase.”

As user acceptance of voice technology improves, so will their expectations. They will want their voice assistants to help them with tasks that require multiple interactions or understanding of specialized domains. For example, MacShane said, users might want to ask their TV to buy a shirt worn by an on-screen actor or add items to their shopping cart while driving. In such cases, the assistant should be able to collect information from multiple sources instead of just assigning voice commands to actions.

“The technological advances we’re seeing in the voice space will allow people to do even more with their voice assistants and take the conversation from one smart speaker to another,” said MacShane.

Platform independent voice assistants

voice assistant brands

Another problem with current voice assistants is their lack of cross-platform support. Alexa is tied to Amazon, Siri to Apple, and Assistant to Google. This makes it difficult for developers to create voice-powered apps that work across the various types of devices their users have.

“Today, we are starting to see a greater diversification of the voice assistants used in the market. Amazon’s position as the leader with the largest market share is slipping as the popularity of new products increases,” says MacShane. “With Amazon now holding less than 50% of the market share, the need for third parties to provide services across all platforms is greater than ever.”

Basically, this means that if you’re developing an app, you’re going to have to figure out how to make it work with all sorts of voice assistants. Limiting support to Alexa or Siri will deprive a portion of your app users of the convenience of voice features. This is a gap that can be filled by platform-independent voice assistants that work on various operating systems.

“Brands won’t want to advertise, sell or engage with consumers on a single smart device. They will want to participate in the whole ecosystem, and it is the third-party technology providers that make that possible,” says MacShane. “By leveraging third-party technology providers, brands can get their message across through the diversified mix of voice assistants. They will create new opportunities by prioritizing infrastructure, monetization, commerce, and data and analytics within the voice technology market.”

Voice assistant platforms to watch in the future
“We strongly believe in the future of voice enablement in three key areas where we see opportunity: commerce, advertising and connected television,” said MacShane.

Progress Ventures, the investment arm of Progress Partners, recently invested in several voice technology startups that MacShane believes will be part of the future of voice assistants.

One of them is blutag, a cloud-based platform targeting voice commerce, a fast-growing sector expected to reach $40 billion by 2022. Blutag provides no-code voice support for most major e-commerce platforms and a rich API for custom integration. Online store owners can add a variety of voice-enabled features, including shopping, coupons, and FAQs. The platform supports multiple device types and multi-modal experiences. So, for example, if a user will be using a device with a screen (for example, a smart TV or a smartphone), the voice assistant will be able to get information from different sources, including the user’s voice data and what is displayed on the screen. the screen. device screen. Since Blutag has been purpose-built for voice commerce, it can handle the complexities of online shopping that general-purpose voice assistants can’t, such as making multi-step purchases or using contextual data.

instream, another Progress Ventures portfolio company, provides voice announcements. Instreamatic allows companies to provide conversational ads that are targeted to users. Instreamatic’s goal is to move from static ads to dynamic ads that provide personalized experiences to users.

interrupt, a third-party company in which Progress Ventures has invested, provides an AI-powered voice assistant that can understand and interact with screen content. For example, if you are watching a movie, you can ask the assistant to provide information about similar movies, the actor shown on the screen, or a specific item, such as the coat the actor is wearing. If you are watching a sports match, you can tell the assistant to place a bet through your favorite betting platform.

This is just the beginning of expanding the voice experience, MacShane believes, and many more useful applications will be developed in the years to come.

“We believe that voice will continue to grow as a modality. We are seeing an increase in the use of voice assistants across all ages, demographics and geographies,” he said. “It’s an exciting time to be in the voice technology space as people continue to increase their use of voice assistants and the technology continues to develop.”

This article was originally published by Ben Dickson on TechTalks, a publication that examines trends in technology, how they affect the way we live and do business, and the problems they solve. But we also discuss the downside of technology, the darker implications of new technology, and what to watch out for. You can read the original article here.

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