Virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri and Cortana are slowly becoming part of our everyday life. What prospects does the digital assistance technology have and how will it shape our lives in the future?
The first iPhone was released just over a decade ago, sending shockwaves across the entire mobile industry. Personal computing was brought to your palm, and the possibilities of technological innovation seemed endless. The momentum first gathered in 2007 has not stopped since: mobile has changed the way we view the world and continues to disrupt traditional business models. Most recently as part of the mobile package, we have seen an explosion in AI advances integrated with virtual assistants.
With humanized names like Siri, Cortana and Alexa, are these virtual assistants destined to become our new companions and colleagues? And if so, what changes will they bring with them?
When Technology Became Our Friend
In 2007, we found ourselves with the entirety of the worlds knowledge indexed into a format that could be easily scanned and navigated from a machine that you held in your hand. Just four years later, Apple unveiled their voice assistant, Siri.
The myriad benefits of voice technology were loudly celebrated: need to set a timer, receive GPS directions, send a text or play your favorite song? Just say the word. The message was clear: voice assistance is the future and the days of the clumsy virtual keyboard are dwindling.
Within a few years of Siri’s release, Apple’s major competitors all followed suit with their own assistant products. Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, and Window’s Cortana; each of the concepts inhabited a distinctive voice and got to work.
However, the race to inhabit an ultra-connected life has not been without its failings. Stories of rogue devices acting on the command of children and TV sets have quickly piled in arousing ever-stronger concerns about data sharing and privacy. The limitations of a technology not yet fine-tuned have been witnessed all too clearly.
The Future: A Time More Connected
Although we may be experiencing the growing pains of a technology not yet operating at full capacity, there is no doubt that this is fast changing.
According to the estimates, by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice activated. With this comes a whole host of changes to the way the web operates as we know it. So how will these developments affect our everyday life and in what areas?
Search and Advertising
One of the most immediate changes that voice search will bring is in how questions will be posed to Google. This will, in turn, alter the way the search giant responds to commands. For the average person, this will have a gradual and possibly unnoticeable impact. However, this will completely change the way that online marketing works.
Currently, search optimization focuses primarily on a website’s use of relevant keywords, which helps to determine the site’s SERP ranking. Keywords are selected based upon terms posed to Google and make the process of testing websites using special SEO tools possible, and relatively simple.
With the advent of a voice search dominated field, however, optimization will need to adapt to a new form of command phraseology. Keywords will no longer consist of a few short instructional words but full sentences. People will no longer have to adapt to machine-processed language as the machines themselves adapt to natural human language.
Teaching and Learning Tools
One of the productive outcomes of virtual assistant developments will come from their instructional value. Within a classroom setting, you can expect to see a smartboard that can be navigated and used solely from voice command wipe out the need for whiteboards and clumsy projector gear.
Just as the chalkboard has taken on a relic-like status, so too shall the pen. The contents of textbooks can be digitized and made not only instantly accessible but searchable as well.
Connecting Home and Office
There is no doubt that technological developments will create seismic shifts in the way we occupy spaces. At home and at work we will see this happen most noticeably. For many people, these two spheres may even become more closely intertwined.
Broad guesses about the workplace of the future have already been made, yet the practical benefits are more measurable. Administration will be done hands-free with immediate time-saving effects for companies, while control of appliances in the home will be possible from any location.
The safety afforded by no longer having both your hands and sight tied to a device is projected to see a dramatic drop in traffic accidents and personal injuries sustained through mobile use.
Although for the time being, we can only project as to what the future holds, there is certainly little doubt that virtual assistants will be at the forefront.
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