Will voice technologies liberate us from our device masters?


You see it everywhere: People walking on the sidewalk, sitting at a restaurant table, riding a train or bus, their eyes glued to the tiny screen in their hands. There’s probably a guy out there who proposed to his girlfriend while simultaneously checking his texts. (Hopefully she texted him “no.”) It is no less than device tyranny!

Fortunately, several technologies are coalescing to help liberate users from the rectangle of pixels on the front of their mobile device. Voice technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are combining to allow device users to get information, be productive, and even communicate without having to look at and manipulate their touchscreens. (Granted, you could do the last one by actually making a call with your smartphone, but who would do something weird like that?)

Over at Forbes, Collin Davis, general manager of Alexa for Business at Amazon Web Services, writes that enterprise customers are using Alexa for Business (launched last year) “to remove the friction of common workday tasks: starting meetings, booking rooms and asking general questions around the office like, ‘What’s the guest Wi-Fi password?'”

Sounds like a minor thing, but there’s a multiplier effect at work here because these little but significant hassles that can interfere with a smooth workday are being eliminated for everyone in the office!

Streamlining common office activities is great; even better is harnessing intelligent voice technologies to business-critical activities.

“Imagine asking Salesforce to research a customer ahead of a meeting instead of doing that legwork yourself,” Davis says. “Voice assistants become more useful workers when they’re connected to business apps and data—and when interactions with them become more human.”

The next step, he says, is for voice assistants to become proactive, anticipating user needs based on behavior patterns, context, and data pulled from calendars and other business or personal applications.

“While voice may not replace screens entirely, work will continue to become more multimodal,” Davis says. “The difference is that technology, and how we interact with it, will start to bend to us—not the other way around.”

Well, until the robot uprising.

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