Five ways Voice User Interface will change consumers’ lives by 2022
Voice User Interface (VUI), the speech activated platform that makes the interaction between humans and computers possible, is changing the world we live in; from the way we shop and manage our homes, to the way we book appointments and look after our children. This means that how brands communicate with their customers will have to dramatically change, according to a leading digital creative expert.
VUI could be soon be the dominant channel by which people encounter brands and services. Smartphone use as a result, will rapidly decline. As Apple celebrates breaking through the $900 billion mark following the launch of its iPhone X, this is a prospect that would make investors break out in a cold sweat.
Brands will have to ramp their understanding of VUI and find more innovative ways of attracting - and retaining - their customers. A fashion retailer, for example, could use VUI to answer a consumer’s question such as ‘what is on trend?’ or ‘what should I wear to a party?’ and supply the outfits accordingly.
VUI is already starting to take charge in our lives with Google Home and Amazon Echo being the leaders in the market. However, this is only the beginning of what is set to be a global technological phenomenon.
Jake Cooper, Executive Creative Director at Toaster.co, has listed five ways that VUI will start to change consumers’ lives in the next five years:
1. The best user interface is no visual interface
In many cases, the easiest, most frictionless, most human and most natural way to engage with any device or service will be by speaking to it. From the purely functional (‘turn on the light’) to the mainly playful (‘tell me a story’) with most things being in-between (‘what should I wear to the party’), voice interaction will be the leading way consumers will organise their lives.
However, the era of using elegant or compelling visual design or interface isn’t over and it doesn’t mean that text or images will be ruled out as a way consumers interact with a device, it just won’t be the main engagement.
2. Smartphones will be a smaller part of the story
It’s hard to imagine now, but consumers won’t be so critically dependent on their smartphones. The current era where the smartphone is dominant (and previous to that, the computer) is evolving to a time when consumers will be ‘speaking’ to various, sometimes invisible, cloud-based connected devices, in their homes, cars, and in the wider environment. Increasingly, they won’t even notice what they’re speaking to.
3. Intelligent brands and services merge
As voice becomes the default way we interact with services and brands, it will narrow the gap between the two. Brands will have to start packaging service design into what they offer So, for example, an apparel brand could extend into a fashion concierge service by suggesting the answers to consumers’ questions such as “Can I have a cheap version of what Cara Delevigne would wear?”
4. Human v computer - who am I speaking to?
As the machine learning and neural networks behind speech and voice interface develop, it will become increasingly difficult for consumers to tell if they are dealing with a human or not. This will have massive potential implications in everything from how we bank to how we care for children and older people – it could be a lifeline to those with limited mobility, a friend to those who are lonely and to act as a reminder to those in the early stages of dementia, for example.
Knowing whether you are dealing with a human or not doesn’t need to be regarded negatively, but there is an argument that ethically companies may need to declare if their software is human or not.
5. Giving brands a new voice
Globally, the presence of brands in the market has stayed basically unchanged throughout history, using design and copy as a way of communicating to consumers. The only real addition to this was the development of radio and then TV as storytelling formats, but that didn’t change what a brand was.
Because VUI will become the first way people encounter many brands, voice has the potential to become a primary expression of that brand.
Brand as voice means a persona, with a scripted verbal style, a certain pattern of speech and flavour of personality, delivered by an actor, and guided by artificial intelligence - the nearest example of this is Siri becoming a synecdoche for Apple; or Alexa for Amazon.
For creative agencies and brands, this means that a different set of skills and tools will come into play - some adaptations of old skills, like longer-form scriptwriting focussed on dialogue, perhaps from writers in film, television and radio; others much newer, like developers who can work with neural networks and machine learning.
Jake Cooper, Executive Creative Director at Toaster.co, says:
“Outside of Google, Siri and Alexa, voice and conversational interface may now seem a bit sci-fi, like ‘Ex Machina’ or Channel 4’s ‘Humans’. But it’s actually a really exciting era of new technology, which will transform the way people live, work and interact with their environment.”