All the big names have the same thing in mind. Google, Apple, Amazon and Samsung all want us yelling at machines. Voice activation is not unlike casting a spell: say a few words into the air, and a nearby device can grant your request.
The sudden rise of voice activation can be linked to a consumer demand for convenience. Voice activation has evolved from ‘baby talk’ single syllable ‘shoebox’ machines back in the 1960’s to Apple’s personal assistant Siri, which can build a vocabulary of thousands of words and answer questions with quick, witty replies.
From our phones, voice activation quickly made its way into our homes. The range of products supporting Amazon’s Alexa home assistant includes Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Look. The Echo versions perform duties such as allowing users to set alarms, ask questions, get the headlines, play music and the many other different activities that Alexa is also capable of.
The Google Home assistant launched earlier this May, bringing the company’s always-listening voice assistant into direct competition with other similar assistants.
While Google is no stranger with voice search and Google Now being available on Android smartphones for years, it was beaten into US and then UK households by Amazon.
Google Home has a mic that’s switched on as long as the device has power and it isn’t muted. It listens out for the wake words “OK Google” or “Hey Google” and then, once it has woken up, starts sending anything you say to it to Google’s servers to interpret and send back responses.
Early this June, reports came from Apple that said the tech giant was in the process of turning Siri into a home assistant as well as on mobile. The new device will be similar to competitors’ offerings in form, offering a voice-controlled speaker that can sit in the kitchen or living room and verbally respond to basic commands and queries.
But voice activation doesn’t strictly apply to small speakers that help around the home. Vodafone has been improving its voice activation options to include different languages, accents and different styles of answers, either safe or unregulated. Vodafone’s latest global campaign even had a sneak peak of a possible in-home voice activation system in its “The future is exciting, ready?” advert that could potentially apply to New Zealand customers.
Trade Me CEO Jon Macdonald told NZ Retail that in 2018, the company will be focusing on voice activation in their mobile app.
As shoppers start becoming more comfortable speaking aloud to their mobile gadgets, speech recognition technology will likely spill over into other types of devices. In many situations, voice is far more convenient and natural than any other means of communication - it can extend the power of computing to any person, no matter their background, language or request. Although voice activation has seen many advances, is still in its infancy. With Siri only having been released less than 10 years ago, there is much that remains to be seen in the world of artificial intelligence.