i3 - January/February 2018 - 101

By Jim Harris
T EC H ST R AT EG I E S

Rapid Rise of Voice

 O 

ur relationship to computers is profoundly shifting.
Like Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek, within a few short years
most of us will primarily interact with technologies -
smartphones, computers, smart home devices and our cars - by
speaking to them. We are leaving the era of the GUI (graphical user
interface) and entering the era of the AUI (audio user interface).
As of October 2017, 20 percent
of all Google searches were voice
searches and by 2020 that could rise
to 50 percent according to ComScore.
That means that there will be 600 billion Google voice searches in 2020.
This shift is being driven by
a number of converging trends: the
ubiquity of smartphones, the exponential increase in computational power,
improvements of voice recognition and
the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).
Voice recognition has reached a tipping
point by achieving human-level accuracy in speech recognition.

Amazon Echo and Digital Assistants
Amazon's Echo is a "smart speaker."
Along with its AI named Alexa it has
hit prime time. (Alexa is named after
the ancient library of Alexandria.)
The market has exploded in 2017 with
roughly 35 million Americans now

owning a voice-activated assistant
device. Amazon Alexa allows you to
stream music, get breaking news, control your smart home and order an
Uber or a pizza. Google also announced
that it has already integrated a range of
third-party services into Google Home,
including OpenTable,WhatsApp and
Ticketmaster.
With 70 percent market share,
Amazon is by far the dominant player
in this space. Some 44 percent
of the 225 million U.S. smartphones
have a personal assistant application
that was used at least once a month
according to Verto Analytics. The
amount of time spent using these
apps is relatively small but growing.
Increasingly, people are using voice
to dictate texts and answer questions
with chatbots.
Your voice-enabled digital assistant on your smartphone can book

Business

appointments, buy products, and even
create and read a daily custom news
highlight for you. In the near term
it will also warn you of a service light
on your furnace, when your tire pressure
is low, and when you need to buy
more milk. It will integrate with every
smart internet-enabled device that you
own. What people and companies imagine that digital assistants can do for
us is mirrored by the explosive growth
in the number of Alexa skills.
A skill is an application. So you can
enable a cooking skill to read recipes
to you in the kitchen while you cook.
And there are commercial skills -
Domino's Pizza has one to allow you
to order - you guessed it - a pizza.
Amazon has been offering
Alexa-only shopping deals to get
customers comfortable with shopping
by voice. Why would that be? Well,
when I shop on my desktop I can have
multiple browsers and windows open
to price compare items. But when
I shop by voice there's no screen and
no comparison. So Amazon wants
us to get addicted to the new medium
to make the market.
This is the natural evolution of computing and there are profound implications
for companies, brands and marketers.
We have entered the era of voice.
Jim Harris is the author of Blindsided.
Follow him on Twitter @JimHarris.

Voice Recognition: By the Numbers

35M

From footprint to market share and AI tech enhancements, the trend is clear.
30M

Google
Home
23.8%

25M
20M

Other
5.6

15M

15K
12K

Through Alexaonly shopping
deals, Amazon
wants to take
the market.

9K
6K

10M
■ 2017
■ 2016
■ 2015
■ 2014

5M
0

Voice-First
Device Footprint

Amazon
Echo
70.6

3K
0

User Share of
Voice-Enabled Speakers in the U.S.

Sept Jan June Jan Feb June
2015 2016 2016 2017 2017 2017

Number of Alexa Skills Available

SOURCES: VoiceLabs analysis combined with research from CIRO, KPCB, and InfoScout. eMarketer. KPCB, TechCrunch, Wired.

C TA . t e c h / i 3

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

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http://www.twitter.com/JimHarris http://www.cta.tech

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