Influence on Personal Human Life: 3. Scenarios (JF)

After two introductory paragraphs it is time to roll up our sleeves and start the evaluation of how virtual voice assistants have already effected our personal life and how it will change us in the future.

In fact, the latest advances of virtual assistants have for instance enabled the development of non-human virtual assistants with an impressive level of (artificial) intelligence that brings to mind the on-board computers which were able to communicate smoothly with the human spaceship crew in the film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and which have featured in many other works of science fiction.

Obviously, the progress in virtual assistant technology has been driven by major advances in voice recognition. According to Tim Tuttle, founder and CEO of MindMeld, a San Francisco based startup developing AI technology designed to power the emerging generation of intelligent, voice-driven applications, the progress made by voice recognition machines over the last three years has been greater than during the previous thirty years combined. In fact, new systems have emerged over the past two years that are capable of responding to a wide range of complex questions. Consequently, a growing number of users are already beginning to use this type of technology in their day-to-day lives, rather than “just for fun.”

Source: https://www.statista.com/chart/5621/users-of-virtual-digital-assistants/

As a result of the increasing capabilities and number of applications for virtual assistants, we can already see a considerable number of users of these applications that has increased steadily over the past years, as illustrated by statistics provided by Statista.

U.S. Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) Market size, by application, 2013–2024 (USD Million); Source: https://gminsights.wordpress.com/tag/virtual-assistant-industry-statistics/

This observation is in fact underlined by the increased market and industry applicability of virtual assistants and voice recognition tools. According to analysts from Global Market Insights the American market for virtual digital assistants has already reached a size of USD11.6bn in 2014, providing solutions not only to smartphones, but to almost every industry sector (e.g. Banking and Financial Services, Automotive, IT & Telecom, Retail, Healthcare, Education).

Furthermore, analysts expect a substantial and stable annual market growth rate of 34.9% over the coming seven years spreading and embedding virtual assistant technology across all industry sectors.

Obviously, virtual digital assistants have already changed our daily life and interaction with all kind of tools but in order to truly revolutionize our life the market needs to evolve even further.

In consequence, we have developed two scenarios to describe the future of virtual assistants: one conservative and another more ambitious scenario.

1. Virtual assistants remain a nothing but an input tool

Obviously, virtual assistants have represented a major extension of human interaction with computers. In addition to the classical keyboard or mouse enabled communication between human beings and computers, virtual assistants offer a new method of input.

We can expect our interaction with computers enabled by voice-driven applications to improve in the future, that will enhance the applicability of computer solutions and will allow us to apply computer technology especially in those situations where a keyboard based interaction with computers is not applicable (e.g. while driving a car).

Nevertheless, although we expect this technology to enhance the portfolio of digital experience, this first scenario will not revolutionize our personal lives and human communication.

2. Virtual assistants and artificial intelligence revolutionize human life

In another more ambitious scenario, we would expect virtual assistants to truly influence our lives. Perfect artificial intelligence would allow computers to replace human beings in everyday life. Computers and robots would emerge from a tool, which has been made to simplify and enhance interpersonal communication to a replacement of the latter.

Science fiction authors have always dreamed of human beings living together with robots enabled by smart technology and treating them as our friend. In consequence, “living” virtual assistants would evolve from a computer interaction tool to a new species populating our planet.