Voice interfaces start crawling into the enterprises

|March 21, 2018 0

Soma Tah

Until last year, voice technology has not seen a widespread adoption because of its failings in one important aspect, i.e. speech recognition. But thanks to the advancement in Natural Language Processing(NLP) and speech recognition systems in the past couple of years, voice technology has now become a staple feature not only on computers and smartphones, but across an array of standalone voice-activated devices in the home as well.

For example, voice-enabled digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana- which have been around for some time in the consumer world, are great now in carrying out tasks such as scheduling calendar events, managing emails, and digging up information online with voice inputs.

While a continuous research and effort still goes into making the conversations with the users as human-like as possible, voice interfaces have now started finding their way into business also. The reason is pretty simple. Voice interfaces make interactions a lot easier in some challenging scenarios and turn out to be quite productive in some ways also.

The Artificial Intelligence(AI)-driven digital assistants are already helping businesses reduce costs by automating basic tasks previously performed by people, or by completing everyday tasks much faster. Quoting Garner’s strategic planning assumptions, Marty Resnick, Research Director, Gartner said, “By the end of this year, close to 50 percent of the new versions of enterprise software products will include some conversational capability.”

The workplaces will also experience the similar shift towards the voice. According to a recent Digital Workplace Report by Dimension Data, 62 percent of organizations expect digital assistants to have a place in their companies in the next two years. Now, the experience can even get better with the use of voice.

Being voice-enabled, they also allow users to get things done much faster without having to log onto computer or type on smartphones all the time. For example, just like the way Google Home plans your day and manages your daily life, Amazon Alexa also can now quickly find the latest sales or inventory data for you during business meeting or presentations.

“Voice assistants can be handier while you are on the go or in the habit of multi-tasking. It is always easy to ask the device than typing queries and looking at a screen continuously. You can save your time and effort for more important things this way,” explained Vijay Sundaram, Chief Strategy Officer at Zoho Corp. which recently introduced a voice-activated AI sales assistant in its CRM.

“This also makes way for several new use cases for the scenarios, where typing or manual data entry remain a challenge such as for field technicians or factory workers. Using hands-free voice controlled devices in these cases help users get their work done better,” said Subodh Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Liv.ai, a Bangalore-based startup which has developed a speech recognition tech that converts speech-to-text.

As voice search is on its way to becoming a dominant search mode on mobile, businesses are also trying to buck the trend. Gartner predictions estimate that early adopters who redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will see 30 percent increase in their digital commerce revenue by 2021.

As the use of voice-activated assistants grows, businesses will also be investing in voice and speech analytics to analyze the conversation data, said Kumar. They can decipher user intent and gather a more robust set of information from the voice interactions, which can help them increase the user happiness quotient.

While the prospect of voice interfaces looks encouraging for businesses, there are some inherent challenges of the voice tech, which can not be overlooked. As KN Murali, Head-Solutions, Dimension Data India, said, “There’s no doubt that mobility backed by powerful mobile devices will make the voice-first world a reality soon. But the real challenge will be in making the man-machine interactions more human-like and deliver a hyper-personalized experience to the user. If the users don’t feel connected, all the efforts will fall flat.”

“The voice recognition is still not perfect and people are still not very comfortable speaking to a machine,” cautions Resnick. “The chances of general consumers getting frustrated with voice interfaces are quite higher than the enterprise customer. While an enterprise customer will be more patient to get going with the voice interfaces, the retention rate of voice apps is awfully low. Hence businesses need to tread carefully in creating voice experiences,” explains he.

“Also, authentication using voice is not a good idea from security point of view. Voice is not 100 percent trusted and enterprises will face hurdles in implementing them,” adds Resnick.

Voice recognition is just one part of the problem. There are bigger challenges in terms of understanding the intent and context of the conversation.

It seems you might have to wait a little longer for your own Jarvis.

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