Voice industries are on the tipping edge of a revolution of sorts, with the biggest names in technology pioneering the next stage of ‘intelligent’ devices. And, whilst asking your phone what the weather will be like tomorrow is great, ambitions go much further in an industry expected to be worth $5.1 billion (over £3 billion) by 2024.
You know it’s the real deal, as well, when the biggest names in tech are all investing big, and competing hard to make that next breakthrough that turns voice technology into both a corporate and consumer hit – but how much progress has actually been made?
The key players in voice technology
It’s largely the usual suspects on the list of key players in voice technology, but there are a couple of names that sit just outside the spotlight.
Google, of course, has to be up there with the top names, and voice recognition will be at the heart of Google Search in the future – not to mention other ventures by the Silicon Valley giant. Now rebranded as Alphabet (of which Google is merely one part) the US firm already has a major hand in translation, Life Sciences projects and a range of other industries where voice technology could play a key role.
This is the company that powers Apple’s Siri software, as well as its own speech-to-text products, and the owner of virtual keyword system Swype. Amongst its software options is Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking which allows you to ditch the keyboard and speak to your computer for word processing.
Microsoft has made serious progress with its own VA system, Cortana, putting it up there with the likes of Google and Apple – especially considering the firm’s acquisition of Skype and the development of Skype Translator.
Intel is another name that garners a little less attention than the likes of Google and Apple, but we’re talking about the firm who developed the speech recognition system for Stephen Hawking and boasts an impressive range of professional voice technologies.
South Korea’s biggest technology firm always aims to innovate on the consumer side, and it’s been working on voice technology for some time now. Voice commands have been a heavy feature in its flagship TVs and of course it also has its own voice assistant in the name of S Voice.
Not to be confused with Siri, this is the open source project that gives programmers around the world access to the inner workings of voice recognition so they can create and test software more accurately.
So how much progress have the tech giants actually made?
It’s hard to deny there’s reluctance on the part of smartphone users to accept voice technology, as you’ll see from the comments section of this Wired article on the very same topic. At its best the software we have now is still somewhat cumbersome and awkward – not to mention somewhat inaccurate – so we’re not expecting to headhunt voice artists for consumer devices here at Matinée any time soon.
But the consumer market is only one side of a lucrative technology coin, and there’s certainly a call for voice technologies in the corporate world, especially when the likes of Microsoft combine them with translation. Then we have the auto industry, where hands-free controls are a huge market, and the same could be said for home electronics as the Internet of Things matures.
So, with voice technology, it seems like firms will have to solve real-life problems, rather than try to create the next consumer fad, before people are more willing to adopt it – and that’s something that will probably have to start in business, education and other corporate sectors first.