A voice on the Internet – Voice assistants for customer communication

Communication with the computer will change fundamentally if we can talk to it.

After the big announcements of Google and Amazon about their new assistance systems, it’s time to take a closer look at this topic. Each of us has surely heard of Alexa, Siri or “Ok, Google”, the virtual voice assistants of the Internet giants. All pursue the simple goal of helping people directly with the help of language and understanding it without detours.

“Internet of Voice”, which is also called “Conversational Internet”, is one of the next steps in the interaction with knowledge and information. For example, it is possible to start a favorite playlist, turn on the lights, start a search query, create new calendar entries, send messages or even have recipes read aloud. At Amazons Alexa you can even order directly online without any detours.

Although our virtual friends from the loudspeaker can already do a lot and develop themselves always further, their abilities and possibilities are still limited.

4 voice assistants – technologies of big companies

The possibilities and undreamt-of potential that await us in the “Internet of Voice” are also driving the industry giants Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon to simplify our lives with their assistance systems and, if possible, to be the first to develop the perfect system. Systems like Apple’s Siri have long since found their way into Apple’s products, as well as Google’s Assistant, which is available on Android devices. Newer systems are Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa.

Each of the systems has a different focus. Siri wants to be the assistant in the trouser pocket and manage calendars, calls, messages and task lists. Google’s successor to Android, the counterpart to Siri, is the Google Assistant, which can do similar things to Siri, but concentrates on the concentrated knowledge from the parent company. Data and knowledge from the Internet are well presented, maps are integrated and even Google Books serves as a source. Amazon takes a different approach with Alexa. Especially one focuses here on the own 4-walls and the private consumer. Music play, small jokes, fast on-line Shopping by voice command, cooking times measure and controls even the home. In contrast to the 3 mentioned systems, Microsoft goes a way that focuses on the PC. Cortana helps the computer user with their tasks and tries to establish itself especially in the business area.

After all, there are some technical limitations which limit the performance and the “intelligence” of the voice assistants. The individual positioning of the big four in the market as well as the emergence of new voice assistants and artificial intelligence will also mean a major upswing for the Internet of Voice in the coming years.

Extensions – powered by a voice assistant

Setting the alarm or reading out the next appointments are one thing. However, connecting IoT systems like Smart Homes and controlling them has a completely different dimension. For example, all systems have already connected to various Smart-Home interfaces and can communicate with the most common manufacturers of Smart-Home products. These interfaces, also called APIs, are also interesting for companies. For example, you can use the voice assistants from Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft to make your own products smarter or to create a new user experience.

Already over 10.000 Apps can be used on the Alexa Store, which use the so-called Voice Skills . And a prominent example from recent times also shows that large companies like Ford have set themselves the goal of using voice assistants and integrating them into their products, in this case cars.

Artificial intelligence as the basis of speech recognition

In order to learn the language of humans, the codes must understand for the first time what we say or what we mean in context. Through intelligent and self-learning algorithms, i.e. artificial intelligence, it has only become possible to teach computers a real language and not just to understand keywords. The aim is to teach the computer to speak in dialogues with answers, questions, questions or confirmations and not simply to take the shortest path to the result in keywords or enumerations. This natural linguistic behaviour will be a great key to success.

Google’s search statistics also show that voice assistants are already getting better, understanding questions more naturally and interpreting the results better. By 2016, more than 20% of search queries in the USA had already been made via voice assistants, thanks to the improved capabilities of our virtual assistants.

Opportunities for e-commerce?

A big problem of voice assistants is that they have to communicate without pictures. Especially when people buy something, they want to see images, shapes and colors to get information there. Amazon boss Jeff Bezos himself said that screens will not be replaced by speech output and that the screen will remain one of the most important means of communication for online sales.

However, language-based shopping is not completely useless. Especially products that are consistent, recurring, or simple, such as detergents, batteries, or your favorite face cream, can be purchased through voice-supported control. Amazon has also been testing the small “Dash” for several years, which orders the desired product (detergent, etc.) again with just 1 click.

Interesting, especially for small companies, is Google’s Express platform. There you can dock your own system with the one from Google Express and use the Google Assistant without any effort.

Better content marketing thanks to spoken-language?

Connecting an online shop is therefore somewhat more difficult because the application scenarios have to be thoroughly planned. But when it comes to information and advertising messages, an active dialogue with a system can open up completely new opportunities. Content can be placed in dialogues in a targeted manner without arousing the suspicion of advertising.

The scenario that blog articles find as basis of the discussion, product configurators become interactive or that one arrives by questions and answers at its personalisierten product suggestions, is for each marketing specialist a dream.

The big difference is that brands also actively seek dialogue and listen themselves, while old forms of advertising usually only run in one direction and provide customers with information that they usually did not ask for.

Summary

Concepts like Siri, Alexa, Cortana or Google Assistant are important to make the Internet and technology more human. How we retrieve information, interact with computers and also how we experience product proposals, support or marketing will depend to a large extent on how easily we can communicate with digital systems and how they communicate with us. Because now you can already see: The opportunities are there and the possibilities are great.

Serien-Unternehmer seit er erfolgreich mit 13 Jahren die ersten Firmen gründete. Seit jeher hinterfrägt er den «Status Quo» und setzt sich für Innovation, Disruption und neue Ideen ein. Als internationaler Keynote-Speaker, Berater für Firmen und Staaten, Dozent und veröffentlichter Digital Transformation Experte versucht Benjamin international die Themen der Digitalisierung, digitalen Transformation und Innovation voranzutreiben.

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