i3 - March/April 2017 - 50

Business

By Shawn DuBravac, PhD, chief economist
T H E EC O N O M I ST

A Voice-Activated Existence

 W

hen Alexa first moved in, in January 2015, my kids
didn't think much of her. At the time, she wasn't
that exciting. She could play music if I asked or set
a timer for me, but beyond that she mostly just occupied a corner of my countertop. The kids would give her a strange
look and eye her up and down, when her cylinder frame caught
them off guard, but mostly they just left each other alone.

Where do we go from Here?

Voice technology is an excellent case
study on the remarkable pace of innovation. We've made incredible progress
in voice-recognition in the last 30 months.
When we started developing voice
recognition in 1995, the word error rate
was close to 100 percent - the technology
misidentified almost every word
that was spoken. But by 2013, that
In the final months of
"Alexa, what time is
rate fell to roughly 25 percent as
2015, Amazon opened
my appointment?"
voice recognition correctly idenAlexa up to third-parties
tified three out of every four words.
and at CES® 2016 we saw
Still, missing one key word in
some of the very first Alexa
a sequence was enough to frustrate
integrations. These 'skills'
most users and keep them from
continued to build in the
fully deploying the technology.
ensuing months and today
Fast forward to 2017 and
you can choose between
the word error rate for voice
thousands of different
recognition has dropped to
applications. If you ask,
roughly five percent, or roughly
Alexa will order you an
the rate at which humans make
Uber, or a pizza, or read
errors when transcribing spoken
your Fitbit stats, or update
words. We've reached human
you regarding your Capital
parity. Companies are now
One bank account balance.
working to integrate voice recogAlexa will do a lot around
nition across a myriad of product
the house if you ask. With
verticals and consumers are
a little help from the right
ready to adopt the technology.
hardware, she'll lock your
In 1984, we saw the first
front door, turn off your
commercial successful launch
lights, or adjust the temof a computer graphical user
perature in your home.
interface (GUI). This changed
In recent months, Google
how we interacted with com-puters
introduced Google Home
and ultimately ushered in smartand now "Hey Google"
phones 30 years later. Now, like
is heard frequently under
then, voice is changing how we
our roof. These devices
use computers. The GUI enabled
have become important eletremendous innovation in computing
ments of our household dynamics. Gone are the days of my kids going to their room and
and voice is positioned to bring similar
slamming the door when they want to make a point. The other day, my son Ryan simply
disruption over the decades to come.
ripped Google's power cord out of the wall. (Unfortunately for him, I can't remember
Voice recognition is becoming the
what point he was even making). As every parent can attest, it's still touch-and-go with
common operating system for diverse
the kids, but for Alexa and Google, they get to stay.
This past January marked the 50th anniversary of CES. With more than 4,000 exhibiting digitally connected objects. It is the glue
binding all of the life changing innovacompanies - from the world's biggest businesses to more than 600 startups - one theme
spoke the loudest. Voice-activated technologies were pervasive no matter where you looked. tions we are seeing at CES together. n

Voice recognition is becoming the common operating
system for diverse digitally connected objects.
50

MARCH/APRIL 2017

I T I S I N N O VAT I O N



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - March/April 2017

Contents
i3 - March/April 2017 - Cover1
i3 - March/April 2017 - Cover2
i3 - March/April 2017 - Contents
i3 - March/April 2017 - 2
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i3 - March/April 2017 - Cover3
i3 - March/April 2017 - Cover4
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20200304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20200102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20191112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20181112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20171112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20161112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160910
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com