The Future of Voice-driven AI: Where Are We Headed?
The ability to speak to a computer and have it execute commands, answer questions, or buy your groceries was merely a dream of science fiction until recently. But over the last few decades, rapid advances in voice-driven artificial intelligence (AI) technology have made it easy to do all of these things and more. Voice-driven AI is in our video games, smartphones, and cars. How did we get here, and where is voice-driven AI headed?
Voice-driven AI: A Brief History
The first voice-driven AI was actually created in the 1950s, but it bore little resemblance to Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa that we are familiar with today. Bell Laboratories created “Audrey,” which was capable of recognizing a single voice reading numbers aloud. Ten years later, IBM followed this with their “Shoebox” program. Shoebox could understand sixteen English words. The 1970s and 80s saw greater progress, thanks largely to the research performed by the US military. By the early 1990s, fledgling voice-recognition programs had a vocabulary of several thousand words.
The 1990s saw the beginning of the shift that led us to where we are today with the introduction of the personal computer. Processors got faster, and so did development in AI technology. Voice recognition had achieved 80% accuracy by the early 2000s, after which Google Voice was introduced. This put voice-driven AI into the hands of millions of people, who in turn gave the program huge amounts of data to learn from. Today, big tech companies are continuing to compete, innovate, and develop voice-driven AI tools using speech data collection. The pace of progress has increased rapidly thanks to these advances.
How is Voice-driven AI Part of our Lives Today?
Most of us are familiar with voice-driven AI as it works on smartphones. We use our smartphone’s voice-driven AI to record speech to text or navigate unfamiliar roads. Travellers use voice-driven AI on their phones in foreign countries to get instant translation. We ask our smart speakers to buy more toilet paper, and a day later, it arrives. Expanding IoT technology means that voice-driven AI is increasingly everywhere we turn, embedded in thermostats and refrigerators. Samsung’s Bixby, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri are some of the more well-known voice-driven AI technologies, but they are by no means the only ones available on the market.
But beyond our day-to-day home lives, voice-driven AI is also making a huge impact in industries from education to healthcare and finance. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the integration of voice-driven AI in many areas as it changed the way people worked and interacted. Students and teachers forced into remote learning have used voice-driven AI technologies to improve literacy and help find information. Tired physicians have turned to voice-driven AI to help them streamline their workflow as they continue to fight the pandemic. Banking and IT industries are also incorporating voice-driven AI to lessen the workload on staff by automating customer queries and interactions. Everywhere we turn, voice-driven AI is there.
How will Voice-driven AI Change in the Future?
As technology continues to develop rapidly, so will voice-driven AI. As voice-driven AI gets smarter and more capable of handling different languages and various types of interactions, its potential is almost limitless. People are becoming more comfortable with AI generally, and so it is only natural to expect that voice-driven AI will be an even bigger part of our lives in the future.
Many different scenarios that can be envisioned for the future of voice-driven AI. If the current trends in healthcare continue, we can expect voice-driven AI to not only help physicians take notes and organize their caseload, but also handle patient assessments and intakes. Conversational AI can assist elderly or housebound patients with self-assessments to determine whether they need medical care. Voice assistants can provide information about drug interactions or symptoms that indicate a patient should seek immediate help.
Voice-driven AI is likely to become further integrated in education as well. Many teachers who began utilizing voice assistants to help their students with basic questions found it to be helpful and plan to continue. One area of voice-driven AI that is currently being researched heavily is how to improve the chatbot experience. In other words, how can we make chatbots less like bots and more conversational? Achieving this goal could make voice-driven AI much more useful in the classroom as well as other places.
Voice-driven AI is also changing search behavior. People are increasingly turning to voice assistants to shop, and the market for voice ads is expanding at the same time. This means that a whole industry is being created around making voice ads and branding through audio cues. As people turn more to voice-driven AI search, text-to-speech will likely be replaced with catchy ads and natural sounding voices.
Security and data privacy is already a big concern with online activity, and voice-driven AI is no exception. Revelations about how smart speakers are always listening—even if they are not recording–have given rise to a wave of concerns about privacy and security with these devices. As voice-driven AI becomes further integrated into our lives, so too will the need for ways to ensure that our lives and personal data are secure.
Mobile App Integration
Many experts predict that voice-driven AI will become more integrated into apps. This trend will improve the user experience by reducing or eliminating the need to fill out forms or attempt to type on small interfaces. Who wants to stop running to mess with their fitness app when they are sweaty? With voice-driven AI built into your fitness app, you won’t have to stop your workout to make the changes or record the progress that you want. The integration of voice-driven AI into more apps will have the added benefit of increasing accessibility for users as well.
Artificial intelligence is all around us, and each year brings new developments that make our lives easier. Whether it’s a voice-driven AI assistant that can help your child with homework or an online AI writing tool that helps you edit your academic thesis, there are countless examples of helpful AI tools. As voice-driven AI advances, we can look forward to a smoother and more personalized age to come.