For the past 20 years, web search has become the most widely used method for answering information needs. Online search has grown in popularity thanks to the double-digit growth in smartphones and tablets usage. BI Intelligence estimates the global market will hit about 2.1 billion smartphone units shipped in 2021. While his has increased the use of mobile internet, this has three main limitations-- typing a search query on a smartphone is very slow compared to a desktop, for information the user is interested in; the user needs to keep querying the search engine to determine if there is fresh content and lastly, current search engines are unable to remember all past searches for specific information.
Voice search uses an intelligent personal assistant which shows the user the right information at the right time, without the user querying for information—this is enabled through a voice input and output process. In addition, this digital device is able to detect a change in the user context, and make useful recommendations for that context. For example, if a user who is a movie enthusiast is in a shopping mall, the assistant might show a personalized list of his upcoming favorite movies at the Cinema, without the user typing a query. On Amazon’s Alexa in the US, you can order a drink, check your bank account balance or call a taxi.
Voice search is on the rise and will shape how we find information on even go about our lives. In 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that 20% of search queries were coming from voice search. ComScore predicts that 50% of all searches will be by voice in 2020. According to the 2017 Voice Report by VoiceLabs, it is estimated that 33 million digital assistant devices went into circulation in 2017.
The top 5 tech companies in the world—Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook have all introduced intelligent personal assistants. Amazon Echo and its voice assistant, Alexa, is the current market leader in voice-activated smart technology. The Amazon Alexa app recently topped the app store charts while Google Home app occupied second position. On Amazon Prime Day in July 2017, the most popular purchase was Amazon’s own Echo Dot, it’s most basic and affordable vehicle for the Alexa voice platform.
With personal assistants now available in kitchens and living rooms across the US, they present opportunities for brands to connect with consumers. 2017 saw many companies start to work with Amazon on Alexa “skills,” developer applications built off its voice platform. Alexa Skills are sets of actions that serve as applications for voice technology. More companies are looking to investing time and money in this new channel.
Manufacturers have started building-up new hardware devices with the technology by using the Alexa's open API to build gadgets that deliver on an enhanced user experience. In 2016 GE developed a contemporary LED table lamp that embeds Alexa directly inside, allowing users to use a light to order dinner, catch headlines, preheat the oven or send other voice commands. At CES 2017, LG Electronics (LG) introduced a new kind of refrigerator, called Smart InstaView that’s embedded with an array of convenient features provided by Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service and powered by LG’s own webOS smart platform. This refrigerator aims to transform life in the kitchen by ordering groceries, looking up recipes or playing music.
With improvement in the technology, speech recognition accuracy is now north of 95% for all of the major technology providers, the shift toward a screen-less, voice-first future is now universally accepted. User adoption and the ecosystem is quickly growing. Manufacturers are starting to take notice and build remarkable experiences. Certainly, in 2018, we shall see major announcements and breakthroughs in voice search.