VOICE Global brings top innovators to discuss industry growth, future & trends
The growth of the voice and speech recognition market is expected to reach $26.8 billion by 2025. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the core technology that comprises voice, estimated to add $5.8 trillion in value annually. This is no surprise when you consider how companies across almost all industries are investing in a connected future through speech technology. In fact, according to Amir Hirsh of Audioburst and Nikolaj Hviidalso of Bragi, who joined Bret Kinsella, founder of Voicebot.ai, this week at VOICE Global 2021, we’re at the beginning of an era of content consumption that is centered around audio.
“Research has shown that when we interact - even between two human beings or a crowd, and definitely with a brand and their target audiences, that audio works way better than video,” said Hirsh.
The conversational tech industry is ripe for growth, particularly as its adoption is vast across travel, healthcare, and in the home, among multiple generations.
Adoption Across Industries
Hong Kong-headquartered Cathay Pacific, for example, is a global airline that flies passengers and cargo to 80 destinations in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and the Middle East. Its chatbot experience has helped with higher efficiencies across the business, including reducing the unnecessary contact with the customer so that the agent can handle more complicated cases, more complex cases.
“Our chatbot is able to deflect 40% to 60% of the chats. I think that actually implies 40% to 60% of cost saving because of the number of human contacts, human handle chats that we're able to adjust,” said Gordon Chu, assistant manager, Digital Product and Technology of Cathay Pacific Airways. “We have been receiving positive customer satisfaction rates in our social messaging channel, more compared to other channels as well.”
The global pandemic has caused accelerated adoption and integration of conversational design into healthcare, especially in pharma. According to Shwen Gwee, VP and head of Global Digital Strategy at Bristol Myers Squibb, voice tech was leveraged to engage patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals.
“There had to be a lot more emphasis and a lot more priority given to doing things virtually, leveraging digital to do all the things that, traditionally, we could've done in a face-to-face environment,” said Gwee.
At home, the experts at GE Lighting have found that more and more people are paying attention to the lighting experience within rooms. And the lighting experience is no longer strictly confined to new styles and mood lighting. It now also encompasses efficiency, more significant interaction, and voice-enabled commands. “When you think of the benefit of the future for our homes is pretty incredible,” says GE Lighting, general manager, Paul Williams. “Things are becoming more connected, not less. It’s not only for control, but also for monitoring, saving and conserving to help the planet.”
Comcast is another innovator with technology that powers internet and cable TV, home security systems, and a host of other products for the home. According to Jeanine Heck, vice president of AI Product, “Last year in 2020, we had 14 billion voice commands.”
Benefiting Multiple Generations
Whether trying to play a game or learn a new language, voice is the perfect tool for people of all ages. Dr. Martyn Farrows, CEO of Soapbox Labs, believes that we should focus particular attention on the children’s market and create applications designed specifically for them. The pandemic, in particular, prompted educators and the entertainment industry to revamp the way we use voice technology.
“Our job is really to provide kids with the experiences that they deserve. They deserve to have experiences that are tailor-made for them. And that requires speech technology, which has been built with them in mind,” Dr. Farrows said.
Voice adoption isn’t just for youngsters. Paulo Narciso of the AARP Foundation says that voice-enabled technologies can advance the needs of older adults. Narciso’s role is to create new products and services for the foundation that serves the needs of vulnerable older Americans, who benefited from the combination of video and voice-enabled technologies when tackling the challenges related to isolation, inclusion, and quality of life during COVID.
“Once seniors learn how to be able to use a device like Alexa or being able to use Voice on your phone, we find that it becomes their preferred medium of communication and being able to interact with technology,” said Narciso.
“Text is too small, for instance, to be able to use on their phone. It is effective in many ways, but a Voice is certainly freeing from a screen perspective,” Paulo Narciso. “Also, you need the use of your hands to just use voice in order to perform tasks or to get updates, and has been a need of seniors and one of the reasons why they adopt voice technology very quickly.”
Aaron Mullaniff, assistant chief services officer of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland, and Katy Beehler, product manager from Bookshare discussed how AI and machine learning technologies that make up voice tech enable “Born Accessible” solutions with inclusive usability built-in. Smart speakers are already being explored as companions in nursing homes to reduce loneliness, with 34% of U.S. senior households with broadband use smart speakers or smart displays.
What other industries and individuals are benefiting from voice?
VOICE Global 2021 wrapped up yesterday with virtual presentations from various industries, including consumer tech, healthcare, entertainment, travel, and more. For an inside look at how brands worldwide are incorporating voice into their business, view the schedule and watch the full speaker line-up on-demand here.