The idea of a personal assistant appeals to everybody in life. In today’s hectic world, many people employ an assistant to take care of increasing daily tasks. While everyone can’t get a personal assistant, modern technology is offering something close through voice assistants.

The question remains, “what is a voice assistant? ” A voice assistant is a kind of software used on internet devices to react to voice commands. This tool gives you the information you need without the need to pick up your smartphone.

What seemed like a futuristic idea in television and sci-fi movies such as A Space Odyssey (1968), Star Trek (1966) and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) has finally come to be. Today, many people rely on digital assistants to complete tasks such as switching off lights, searching for information on smartphones, getting directions, playing music, among others.

Whatever your occupation, it is essential to get more insight into this voice technology as a consumer. This guide explores digital assistants in detail, how they work, their applications, and benefits.

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Impressive Voice Assistant Statistics

A study by eMarketer in 2019 estimated over 11.8 million people in the country were using this voice technology at least once a month (a 9.5% increase from 2018). As of March 2019, 66 million Americans owned a smart speaker, a device that relies on voice technology.

Another report says an about 3.25 billion digital voice assistants were in use as of 2019. Juniper Research estimates the number of voice assistants will increase threefold by 2023.

Such numbers highlight the explosion in the use of voice technology. With the biggest tech companies such as Samsung, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, among others investing heavily in voice technology, its application will grow further.  Whether you are a marketer, educator, app developer, or in healthcare, voice technology will soon impact your life.

As a marketer, you’ll have to ensure your content is voice search-ready. The readiness entails creating content with a more conversational tone for it to rank high on voice search results.

A brief history of Voice Assistants

The journey to the likes of Siri and Google Assistant has been long and tedious. In 1911, a voice-activated toy, known as Radio Rex, was the first commercial application of automated speech recognition (ASR).

At the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, IBM presented its IBM Shoebox recognized as the earliest tool to apply digital speech recognition. Another step in voice technology was the development of Harpy, a device that mastered 1000 words.  The use of automated attendant and medical digital dictation software was a big step in voice tech development before the 1990s.

The entry of the personal computer and smartphones gave impetus to voice technology culminating in Siri, the first voice assistant developed by Apple in 2011. The use of Siri in Apple’s popular iPhone 4S laid a foundation for further research and development, leading to products by Google, Microsoft, Amazon among other tech giants.

Today, most smartphones come pre-installed with Voice-activated assistants. You will also find voice-activated smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.

voice assistants you need to know

Voice Assistants in Detail

Now consider this scenario; after a tiring day at work, you get into your car and immediately use a voice command to your smart speaker for directions to the nearest coffee shop. After your coffee with a friend, you head home.

Once there, you give a command to your smartphone and the gate opens. Another command then opens the door and as you get off your shoes, you give a voice request to your smart speaker for your favorite pick-me-up song, which will instantly come up on the stereo.

It all sounds like a fantasy; nevertheless, this is how many people currently use voice assistants to improve their lives. If you haven’t joined the smart technology bandwagon, it is good to get all the information you can on voice technology.

The most common voice assistants are:

  1. Siri by Apple
  2. Google Assistant
  3. Alexa by Amazon
  4. Microsoft’s Cortana

A voice assistant relies on a mix of technology, including natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), and voice recognition. The mixture allows the technology to understand questions, provide answers and complete tasks as commanded by the user.

Here are the steps involved in this voice technology:

1. Voice Assistant Listens to Commands

Consumer-facing voice bots such as Alexa, Cortana are passive listeners. They are always on and listen to any trigger word to react.  Siri and Google Assistant have the option of activation through touch/tap.

2. Voice Recognition

Once the software hears the trigger word, the voice recognition technology kicks in. This software is an amalgam of artificial intelligence and deep learning. At this stage, the conversion of sound waves into understandable data starts. Factors considered by the technology at this stage include volume, pitch, tone, and the precision of speech.

3. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

For the voice assistant to understand a command, there’s also a complex aspect of the human dialect that has to be broken down.  From user intent, context, unique speech patterns, slang to accents, among other elements of human language, natural language processing works hard to help the voice assistant understand the command.

4. Retrieval of Information

Once the voice assistant processes a command through voice recognition and NLP, it is time to retrieve the information. The software then accesses multiple APIs to get comprehensive information on the query. Different voice assistants have varying capacity to search for information.

5. Delivery

Delivery is the point where you get the audio feedback from your voice assistant.

All these tasks take milliseconds: you will hardly notice the lapse as the voice assistant works hard to get your query’s results.

Smart speakers: Harnessing the Power of Voice

Smart speakers provide a much-needed link in voice communication. These speakers leverage voice technology to communicate and it is through them that most people now use voice assistants.

Some of the popular smart speakers on the market include:

  • original Echo
  • Amazon Echo Dot
  • Google Nest Mini
  • Sonos One
  • Echo Plus
  • Apple HomePod
  • JBL Link 20

These devices have incredible potential, and they use different voice assistants to operate. For instance, Echo relies on Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant while Google nest Mini uses Google Assistant. There are smart speakers on the market that use third party voice technology.

These smart speakers make it possible to build intelligent homes through the control of multiple internet-enabled devices from one hub.

Applications of Voice Assistants

The use of voice assistants is on the rise. One in five U.S. adults has a voice-enabled smart speaker.

Are you still wondering how to apply a voice assistant in your life? Take a look:

1. Playing Music

You can use Voice-activated assistants as a personal DJ to listen to any music you want. The best thing is that you don’t have to search through music libraries on your computer. Just give the command and you are good to go.

For an even more extensive catalog of music, consider linking your voice assistant to online music services such as Pandora, Spotify, or Tidal.

A voice-activated speaker is also a great idea in your home or office to enjoy this convenience.

2. Get Spot Answers

What’s the capital of Nevada? Who is the president of China?  At times, you can’t think quickly to find such answers. But why spend so much time racking your brain while you can use Siri? Whether somebody just asked you a quick question or you want to clear a nagging question in your mind, voice assistants can come in handy.

3. For Your Studies

If you have a research paper or you want any piece of information online, there are two ways to do it. You can either type the search query on your search engine or use a voice assistant to get the information you need.

4. Get Quick Traffic Directions

This is one of the most common uses of voice technology. Whether you are driving or on foot, a voice assistant is a handy tool to get you to your destination more quickly. If you visit a big city next time, make use of your smartphone’s voice assistant to get around. It is more convenient than stopping strangers for directions.

5. Get Addresses

Would you like to enjoy a Mexican dish but have no idea where to find the right restaurant? You can now use your smartphone’s digital assistant to guide you there. If you have any address you would like to visit; be it a store, public office or any other place; your voice assistant cuts the search time.

voice assistants and voice overs

6. Making Calls

If your hands are busy but you want to call someone, this can be frustrating. It doesn’t have to be like that. With Siri, Google Assistant and other digital assistants, you can now make calls without touching your smartphone.

7. Create a Smart Home/Office

Smart homes are the most significant trend in real estate and for a good reason. Many homeowners now leverage cutting-edge technology to automate their homes and also control different operations remotely. Voice technology is at the core of a smart home.

You can perform different tasks from lighting, temperature control, entertainment, among others, using voice-activated speakers. These rely on voice technology to complete these tasks.

8. Send Email/Text

It is dangerous to use your smartphone when on the road. In today’s fast-paced world, many drivers tend to ignore this, leading to an increase in the number of road accidents. A voice assistant can avert many road accidents. You can now voice your email or text through this technology and send it without touching your phone.

These are only a few of the applications of voice assistants in modern life. With tech giants refining their voice technologies, you can expect more applications of this tool.

The Future of Voice Assistants

The outlook for voice technology is tremendous and there’s only one way for this technology to go; up. Some of the development to expect in this technology includes streamlined conversations, compatibility, and Integration, more individualized experiences as the technology develops and increased focus on security.

Wrapping Up

When you look at the impact of voice assistants, there’s no doubt this is one of the most remarkable technologies today.  The use of voice will continue growing, and this affects both individuals and businesses.

By learning about this voice technology, you can now understand the products on the market, such as smart speakers.

This technology has immense potential and the world has just started exploiting it. If you haven’t started leveraging search, it is time to join this exciting new world.