Ken Sutton is CEO and co-founder of Yobe, a software company that uses edge-based AI to unlock the potential of voice technologies for modern brands. On average, men and women speak roughly 15,000 words per day. We call our friends and family, log into Zoom for meetings with our colleagues, discuss our days with our loved ones, or if you’re like me, you argue with the ref about a bad call they made in the playoffs.
Hospitality, travel, IoT, and the auto industry are all on the cusp of leveling-up voice assistant adoption and the monetization of voice. According to Meticulous Research, the global voice and speech recognition market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17.2% from 2019 to reach $26.8 billion by 2025. Companies like Amazon and Apple will accelerate this growth by leveraging ambient computing capabilities, which will continue to push voice interfaces forward as a primary interface.
As voice technologies become ubiquitous, companies are turning their focus to the value of the data latent in these new channels. Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Nuance is not just about achieving better NLP or voice assistant technology; it’s also about the trove of healthcare data that conversational AI has collected.
Our voice technologies have not been engineered to confront the messiness of the natural world or the cacophony of our actual lives. Google has monetized every click of your mouse, and the same thing is now happening with voice. Advertisers have found that speak-through conversion rates are higher than click-through conversation rates. Brands need to begin developing voice strategies to reach customers — or risk being left behind.
Voice tech adoption was already on the rise, but with most of the world under lockdown protocol during the COVID-19 pandemic, adoption is set to skyrocket. According to Insider Intelligence, nearly 40% of internet users in the U.S. will use smart speakers at least monthly in 2020. Yet, several fundamental technology barriers are keeping us from reaching the full potential of the technology.
The steep climb to commercializing voice
By the end of 2020, worldwide shipments of wearable devices rose 27.2% to 153.5 million from a year earlier. Still, despite all the progress made in voice technologies and their integration in many end-user devices, they are primarily limited to simple tasks. That is finally starting to change as consumers demand more from these interactions, and voice becomes a more virtual interface.
In 2018, in-car shoppers spent $230 billion to order food, coffee, groceries, or items to pick up at a store. The auto industry is one of the earliest adopters of voice AI. Still, to capture voice technology’s true potential, it needs to become a more seamless, truly hands-free experience. Ambient car noise still muddies the signal enough that it keeps users tethered to using their phones.