The future of voice assistants

Impressions from the world's largest voice conference

Digitalization & innovation, 15.08.2019

The Voice Summit in Newark focused on the status quo and the future of voice assistance technology. Nicolas Konnerth, Head of Voice at ERGO, spoke about his conference impressions and the new trends in voice.

Voice Summit 2019 in Newark

When it comes to new technologies, it is sometimes very easy to look to the future: It only takes a look at a foreign market where the technology has already been further developed and more widely adapted. This is all the more true for voice assistants. The language barrier ensures that new technologies are only launched on the American market before they are also introduced in Germany after two to three years.

Attending a conference there gives us valuable impressions of what awaits us in Germany. As Head of Voice at ERGO, it is my job to prepare our Group for this future.

Trends in the voice industry

In Germany, the community surrounding the topic of voice assistants is still manageable. At the Voice Summit in Newark, 5,000 visitors were expected to listen to lectures by over 350 speakers. The host was the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The numerous presentations, panels and exhibition stands were organized in the sports halls and lecture halls of the campus.

One of the participants said to me, "You know it gets serious when you talk about your own industry." And this industry has a lot to offer today and in the future. It will be easier to teach voice assistants new skills.

Voice can also be visuals

Although Gartner's IT analysts have predicted that 30 percent of all web interactions in 2020 will be without a screen, the interaction between the voice assistant and the screen has become a real strength. Behind the rather technical term "multimodality" lies the trend that more and more voice assistants are being supplemented by screens - be it the television at home, a mobile phone in a pocket or a screen in a smart speaker.

This enables the user experience to be enriched with additional information or even certain content formats such as pictures or videos to be made possible in the first place. Since Google Assistant users typically communicate with their assistants via smartphones anyway, it has become a design component that should not be neglected. But even with Alexa, we now have to assume that every sixth user accesses our skills via Echo.

Language assistants become omnipresent

Most of us already carry voice assistants around in the form of smartphones, but voice assistants will be omnipresent in the future. For example, the growing number of voice assistants in cars - even if your car is a vintage car, it can be easily upgraded with Echo Auto. At the same time, more and more new concepts are emerging as to how we can carry voice assistants with us outside our smartphones: For example, in the form of sunglasses.

Voice becomes more sensitive

When I ask my voice assistant who I am, he is already quite likely to distinguish me from a stranger. You can find out a lot more about audio in the future: How old is the speaker? What is his health condition? Has anyone fallen? Is the speaker alone or in a group?

This additional information could potentially be used to develop new context-based skills for voice assistants. For example, an emergency service that informs relatives when someone has fallen, or the retrieval of account information that only works when the user is alone and uniquely identified.

Exciting discussions

In addition to these trends in Voice, the discussions on site were also very exciting. These included discussions with numerous start-ups and the major providers in the voice environment. Future of Voice, with whom we work very closely as partners, were of course also present.

ERGO is not alone with its vision for voice. A short-term meeting with colleagues from the financial and insurance sectors brought many participants together. It was exciting to see how insurance companies in the American market are shaping this trend for themselves. When I compare this with our developments, we are already on the right track.

By Nicolas Konnerth

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