Voice assistants are an integral part of many products we use daily. Most of us had experience using Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Echo, or Google Now. Also, many brands integrate assistants in their products that aim to solve specialized tasks.
Even though virtual assistants aren't the main channel of interaction between humans and machines, we are quickly moving in that direction.
This article will review the top 6 trends that will shape the virtual assistant in the next five years.
1. Moving from stand-alone to unified solutions
A few years ago, when companies wanted to create an assistant, they invested in developing their technology and creating specialized assistants focused on solving specific problems (i.e., smart banking/finance advisor, trip planner, lifestyle services, etc.). Today, companies don't need to start from scratch; they can simply add voice skills to existing platforms. For example, you can use the Amazon Echo platform and create voice skills that will help you solve your business problems.
The benefits of this approach are evident. Not only can you save time and money on the development, but you also can integrate your solution naturally into the ecosystem that the vendor offers. It gives you access to a large audience, and your users will have a more familiar experience.
Amazon and Google are actively working on simplifying creating new voice skills. Over time, creating a new virtual assistant will be even simpler —all you will need to do is find a relevant smart skill and customize it according to your needs. The model of creating a skill will be similar to creating a mobile app and publishing it to the AppStore or Google Play.
2. Moving from voice-only to voice-first
Despite the rise of smart home speakers, the most popular device for virtual assistants is still mobile devices.
In 2022, up to 95% of voice assistant users use assistants on their phones.
According to the National Consumer Survey Reveals, more than 45% of users would like to be able to interact with mobile applications by voice. Apple Siri and Google Now are prime examples of mobile-first skills. And since mobile devices have a screen, it's a perfect platform to create a voice-first experience. Voice-first interactions start with voice and might continue with visuals. The well-designed voice-first app combines visual, voice, and touch interfaces. Voice-first mobile apps have the potential to inherit the strengths of both graphical and voice interfaces.
The limitation of voice-only is another reason why the industry is moving in that direction. When it comes to information search, it's nearly impossible to provide a long list of options or compare individual items using voice alone. So the trend towards multimodality will gradually reorient the market from voice-only to voice-first.
The number of mediums that your assistant is available will be a significant competitive advantage. Users will want to interact with their favorite assistant via TV, car, or smartwatch. In the next few years, we can expect that any household appliances from a refrigerator to a smart TV will support virtual assistants. Plus, companies will need to focus on offering an omnichannel experience—the users should be able to switch from one device to another (i.e. from mobile to TV) without losing context.
3. Using virtual assistants in public spaces
Automation of routine tasks is a significant advantage that virtual assistants offer. Today, many people use Amazon Alexa to check the weather forecast or turn on/off the light. In the next few years, virtual assistants will 'walk' outside of our homes and become a part of the environment around us.
We can expect wider use of intelligent assistants in business—we're quickly moving towards smart offices and smart cities where virtual assistants will play an important role. The key driver of the growth of virtual assistants in office spaces is freeing employees from routine operations. We will see more automation for typical tasks, such as scheduling appointments, analyzing conference calls, creating summaries for meetings. According to Garner, by 2025, 75% of all conversations at work will be recorded and analyzed by virtual assistants.
Smart assistants will also be a part of retail stores and government organizations. Virtual assistants will act as mediators between the user and the service—the virtual assistant will provide digital operators such as applying for visa appointments and driving license renewal. When it comes to government services, a typical problem that the user has is the problem of formulating a proper query. The user knows what they want but cannot find a proper option in the service menu. It's a perfect scenario for virtual assistants.
4. Creating visual identity for virtual assistants
Creating visual avatars for virtual assistants is the next big goal for companies. In 2022, we're moving from voice-only assistants to multimodal interfaces in which we can see the virtual assistant that we are interacting with. We already have examples of digital avatars being used instead of presenters on television. For example, an artificial intelligence-powered news anchor resembling a real-life female presenter appeared on the South Korean TV channel MBN in 2019.
When people can hear the assistant and see the avatar with facial expressions, it provides unique opportunities to create more human-friendly products. When it comes to technologies, we can expect a fast improvement of facial animation created based on the voice of a person's speech.
It doesn’t mean that visual avatars will replace real people in the near future. But they can help to reduce the cost of production. For example, movie studios will use digital avatars during movie production.
The potential rise of the metaverse is another reason why companies will invest in creating aviators. Digital avatars are a natural part of metaverses.
5. Finding new opportunities in digital commerce
The next generation of virtual assistants will likely significantly impact digital commerce. It's expected that making purchases with voice assistants will be one of the core skills ("buy with voice").
There are two reasons why visual virtual assistants can help with that:
- Better search. Today it takes time for a user to find a relevant product at the marketplace. Not only do the users have to formulate the proper query, they also have to browse through a list of options. Assistant can use all information it has about the user to simplify the process of finding the best fit product.
- Filling out forms. Assistants can also simplify data entry scenarios.
Over 82% of internet traffic will be online videos by 2022.
The rise of video content creates a special category of shopping—video shopping. Users will shop for products while watching movies.
6. Focus on safety and security
Virtual assistants have access to our data, and the last thing we want is to experience a situation when someone else will have this information. The use of digital assistants is impossible without reliable security systems. Voice biometrics (identification and authentication of users by voice) is one of the most promising ways of authentication.
In 2021, speech recognition accuracy rates were between 90% to 95%
Global voice biometrics market size will grow from $1.1 billion in 2020 to $3.9 billion by 2026
Companies will improve the accuracy of voice authentication—it should work on short phrases and should be protected from possible types of attacks (for example, the system should be able to understand when someone is using playback of recorded voice command or synthesize voice). The good news is that such technologies already exist; they need improvement.
Companies will invest in improving techs by creating users' voice snapshots and protecting them from deepfakes and voice synthesis technologies. Plus, voice biometrics will be combined with other authentication methods (such as facial or fingerprint scanning).
Access to sensitive content is another area where we will see improvements. Today, its multiple family members can interact with voice assistants if it is a home device. The introduction of biometrics will protect kids from sensitive content and help with content personalization.