Voice-enabled Agents Everywhere

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Posted: August 3, 2016 | Categories: Natural Language Processing

One of the reasons I became so certain that we were entering the age of no apps is the rise of voice agents. My BlackBerry had voice control capabilities years ago and Android and iOS both added capabilities well. My 2007 car supported an option for voice control, but I never installed one. The precipice was when I purchased an Amazon Echo for the kitchen. I’d started using Google Now and Siri for things, random searches, phone calls and opening apps, but when the Echo came into the house, it changed music for me.

I’m a huge fan of Sonos (www.sonos.com); I’ve got 4 of them in the house and I was expecting to add more before the Echo came to town. For a long time, I desired the ability to control my Sonos devices via voice control. I just wanted to be able to walk into a room and ask the device to start playing music. Sonos hasn’t adopted voice control, but as soon as I got an Echo, I found that I could play whatever music I wanted plus do more (such as check my calendar or put items on my todo list). What I quickly found was that I abandoned the Sonos device in the same room where I had an Echo since it was so much more work to open up an app to pick what to play when I could just ask for it. It didn’t matter that the Echo sound quality was lower than Sonos, the convenience factor so outweighed sound quality that the Sonos is now collecting dust. Apparently a lot of Sonos customers have made the same switch.

The biggest issue is that so many personal or household devices are adding voice control, that there’s so many devices listening to you at all times. I even have multiple Android devices, so when I say “OK Google” multiple devices answer. In my house, I have 6 Android devices, one iOS device, two Echo devices – all of which are constantly listening to us, waiting for the next command. We also have an Xbox as well as a couple of smart TVs, all of which are listening as well.

So, in this World Without Apps (WWA), apps are going away at the same time that devices that are listening to us, in order to help us, of course, are increasing. We’ll have voice-enabled agents everywhere, all vying for our attention. How exactly do we deal with that?

Well, I imagine our cell phones become less important. With ubiquitous network connectivity and smart devices surrounding us, why do we need to carry a physical device around with us? I imagine that we’ll need access to screens in order to be able to interact with those data-driven apps I mentioned in an earlier post. Beyond that, you can interact with your surroundings without having a physical device in-hand. Initially, those agents will be able to communicate with you through a Bluetooth headset for example, but eventually, once embedded technology becomes prevalent, you’ll be able to have private interactions with these agents through the electronics embedded into your brain. How cool would that be?

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