Voice Tech Podcast
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Voice Tech Podcast

How voice-first technology metamorphosed into a superpower in the market over the years

When was the last time you remember yourself navigating to your to-do list to set a reminder? Or scrolling and struggling through the numbers to set an alarm for an odd hour? Feels like ages ago, right? Thanks to the advent and evolution of voice technology, we’re now a generation who is a voice command away from accomplishing tasks, instead of a click.

So how did it all happen? How did we get here in the first place?

We’ve curated a piece below to take you on a wonderful, short little journey; making stops on years when exceptional developments in voice commerce technology changed our lives, over the course of 10 years. From Siri to Bixby, here’s how it all happened.

2010- Siri’s advent into this world

From asking silly questions to Siri ensuing in witty, sarcastic comebacks during our leisure time to catechizing her to place a call while we’re speeding to work when we are late, Siri and iOS users’ relationship has come a long way. While non iOS users might be unfamiliar with her while she continues to stay a mystery to you, we’re here with a full-fledged overview of the evolution of the most popular smart voice assistant!

What is Siri?

Siri is a smart voice assistant dwelling in iOS mobiles and tablets. She’s based on the voice-driven-do-engine concept. She can perform various tasks like placing a call, scheduling a meeting reminder, or maybe just a chit chat session. Every basic task that you’d otherwise manually do on your phone is just a ‘Hi Siri!’ away.

How was she born and where do we stand with her now?

She was the brainchild of SRI International, a research institute that had a team that developed the concept of speaking or writing to a smart assistant to get a set of tasks done. Such as, placing a call, dropping a message, or looking something up on the internet. In 2010, Apple perceived great potential in it and bought the company. She gained tremendous popularity among users and here we are today, talking to her almost on a daily basis!

2011-Google rolls out its voice search feature

Long gone are the days when we would hit the keys on our keyboard to search something on Chrome. That little microphone icon can recognize your voice and look your question up on the internet with just one click.

How and when was this voice search technology introduced?

It was initially a tool used in Google Labs where users could dial the concerning number, speak out their query, and voice-first technology would recognize the words and send the search engine results back to the user. Unfortunately, it was shut down but the legacy was carried on in Google maps, Google mobile app, and so forth by 2011. Since then, it has only witnessed a rise in its vogue.

How did it increase competition in the market?

On October 30, 2012, Google introduced this feature by releasing it’s ‘Google Search App’ for iOS users as well. It received a lot of positive reviews, with users stating that Google’s voice search had more depth than Siri, was quick, relevant, and on point. It skyrocketed the competition to a whole new level, by increasing the number of voice searches on mobile devices by about a whopping 20%!

2012- Nuance unties Nina Voice Assistant

With years of experience in the speech recognition industry, Nuance decided to let their Nuance Intelligent Virtual Assistant out on a roll into the market in 2012.

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What makes it different from other smart assistants?

Nina is way ahead of Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana. It recognizes exactly when it is incapable of answering a question and tends to pass it on to a human specialist instead! Robert Weiderman, Nuance’s executive vice president and the manager told Digital Trends,” The advantage of AI is, they’re always available. Unlike a human, they can never have a bad night. You can self-service 24/7.”

How does it work?

Nuance’s engineers use an automated educational tool to teach the smart assistant the workarounds and ways of business. After it successfully acquires the basics, it can go forth and conduct about 80–90% of the business tasks on her own; such as replying to messages, answering questions, and handling customer calls.

2013- Microsoft’s Cortana is inaugurated

You will be lying to yourself if you deny that when you first installed Windows 10, Microsoft’s Cortana’s “Hi there! I’m Cortana, and I’m here to help.” failed to make you feel at home. Back in 2013 when Microsoft started to sweep the market off its feet with their assistant, a furore spread like a wildfire among the masses.

How did she come into existence?

The development started by the Microsoft speech product team back in 2009. Cortana was first exemplified in Microsoft BUILD Developer Conference in San Francisco. Microsoft launched it as it’s the holy grail to take its Windows phone and software to a whole next level.

What does she do?

Cortana takes you on a sweet little tour around your Windows software, and is always at your service whenever you need her help or feel stuck. She is ‘always listening’, whenever you want her to, even if it’s converting centimeters to inches!

2014-Amazon’s Echo introduced Alexa

Amazon reclaimed its throne in the consumer market with its Alexa, a smart speaker that can not only search your favorite songs or foretell the weather, but also turn your oven off if need be.

Who is Alexa?

It’s a virtual AI technology, rolled out as a feature of Amazon Echo smart speakers who are capable of communication, playing music, and making to-do lists.

How does Alexa outdo other smart assistants?

You can program Alexa with Routine and instruct her to do a set of tasks when need be. A simple ‘Alexa, I’m home!’ can make the lights and wifi turn on, out kettle on the boil, and get the fan-blades circulating.

2015-SoundHound publishes its Houndify platform

With various companies showcasing their capabilities in taking speech recognition to the next level, why should SoundHound stay behind?

What is the Houndify Platform?

With the sole purpose of branding companies who want voice recognition features introduced into their apps and ventures, SoundHound empowers them with their voice commerce technology, helping every company move forward with the crowd.

How is it implemented on Snapchat today?

Powered by SoundHound, we can now just speak the kind of filter we want on Snapchat into the microphone, and viola! It shall result in a quick search and presentation of the filter serving as a perfect fit as per our requirement.

2016-Commencement of Google Home and Google Assistant

The speech commerce industry was in for a fierce battle in 2016, as Google decided to introduce Google Home and Google Assistant which offered tough competition to Alexa and Siri.

What is Google Assistant?

Another artificial intelligence powered by voice recognition, it wakes up to ‘Okay Google’. It can search your gallery for a particular picture when you instruct it what it’s like or drop a message to your mom that you’ll be home late. It is the backbone of Google’s smart home automation technology as well.

What is Google Home?

Out in the market under the brand name of Google Nest, it allows you to communicate and place commands by voice interaction through Google Assistant. You can play movies, listen to music, get to grips with your day just with a mere voice command.

2017-Baidu and Alibaba set their voice assistants and smart speakers into motion

These Chinese companies did not want to stay behind either. With Alexa, Siri, Cortana and so forth dominating the market, they launched their own voice assistants, giving a tough competition to all the preexisting ones in the market. Baidu became #2 seller of its smart speaker globally, while Alibaba is now strategizing and implementing the expansion of Tmall Genie in automobiles.

2018-Samsung discloses Bixby 2.0

The leading brand in Android mobile phones was in no way staying back from its competitors, as almost every well-known company had their own assistants based on voice-first technology. Samsung decided to issue its own voice assistant, called Bixby.

What is Bixby used for?

Samsung’s take to develop the likes of Siri and Alexa, it decided to introduce its own voice assistant to help its users, apart from supporting Google Assistant on its android phones.

What can Bixby do?

It can perform numerous tasks. It can save or delete a contact, erase sensitive information, capture a photo, and share it on social media, download an app, and much more!

2019 — Now

Speech recognition technology has been ever-evolving, and the primal aspect of smart speakers is just the skeleton structure to evolve into something greater under the umbrella of the Internet Of Things and Artificial Intelligence. With Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, voice-first technology has already made an advent into our daily lives. Over 3 billion companies have implemented it, and according to research almost 60 million people own a smart speaker, and about 50% of them keep on in their living room, kitchen, and bedroom to monitor smart home tasks! This technology is growing and glowing, and soon it shall be an integral part of our lives.

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Tapaan Chauhan

Tapaan Chauhan

Founder & CEO at Smart Voice Studio | Brand Voice Consultant | VUI Designer | Conversational AI | Voice marketing strategy designer www.smartvoicestudio.com