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Talking to Technology: Why #VoiceFirst matters

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Guys, I have a confession to make.

I talk to my Roomba.

If you don’t know what that is, it’s a robot vacuum cleaner. It is not voice controlled.

He’s called Jeffery. Yup, he has a name and a gender. I thank him when he does a good job, and tell him off when he does things like knock over a container of birdseed, not sweep it up, and then hide under a blanket in another room (totally true story).

It’s not just me. I know several other people who have one, and all of them have names.

My roomba has some basic algorithmic intelligence that allows it map out and clean a room, and return to its dock to charge. It doesn’t have anything approaching sophisticated artificial intelligence. It doesn’t attempt to interact with me in a human way, as much as I may ascribe human intent to its actions.

And still I talk to it.

Using voice to actually interact with technology may seem like a ‘future’ thing, but it’s very much already here – and not just because we anthropomorphise technology already.

I tip my wrist to wake my apple watch and ask Siri what 400F is in celsius. I search for things on my appleTV by speaking to it because clicking on the remote seems like too much work. I casually ask Alexa to confirm a fact that me and my friends are arguing over. I end my day telling Alexa to trigger my bedtime routine, which turns off all the lights and sets my thermostats to nighttime temperatures. I have definitely shouted at my printer more than once, although unlike Siri and Alexa its wilful distain of all humans means it doesn’t even try to answer.

We have some barriers to overcome in the voice interface space. We are getting very comfortable with talking to technology in our own homes, but less so in public spaces or at work. We are already seeing some companies working to change that. Apple’s removal of the headphone port encourages wireless headphones – necessary to move you to being able to speak to and hear Siri all the time. Not convinced? Consider that the AirPods have no physical controls and expect you to do everything through Siri. Users are being trained to become comfortable speaking to Siri anywhere at any time.

Voice first design for chatbots will be as critical as mobile first design for websites.

Fail to design for voice and the experience simply won’t translate. As IOT, AR and VR become more and more common, voice is the obvious choice for interactions with them. Users will expect it.

If I can’t buy things from your company through Alexa (or other digital assistant), I’ll just buy from one I can. Voice will be a simple, efficient way of getting things done.

Just providing a voice interface isn’t enough – your company also needs to be thinking about branding. If you have no visual branding anymore (and you need to consider you may not) what differentiates you? Why would some one choose your services over another company’s services?

I don’t think I’m alone in talking to technology – even technology that doesn’t listen. Having a chatbot is a good start, but if you haven’t already started thinking about voice, you need to do it now. It would be like having a website that doesn’t work on mobile – you will miss out on a large segment of the market.

Voice as primary interface is coming, and it’s coming fast. Start running now or be left behind.

If you found this article interesting, please 👏 below, I really appreciate it. You can also follow me here, or on twitter @virtualgill.


Talking to Technology: Why #VoiceFirst matters was originally published in Chatbots Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Chatbots Magazine

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