Megatrend Voice

Or why the PC keyboard will die out

Digitalization & innovation, 21.06.2018

Every eighth German household has an intelligent voice assistant at home. They are the speaker-like computers controlled by human voices. Every eighth household - that's not exactly a lot. And nevertheless there is a strong argument that voice technology is marking out the next evolution stage in electronic data processing – or better its application. At some point, our children in museums will be pointing to computer keyboards and screens and asking: What is that?

„I am sorry, I cannot answer that. But I am learning all the time...”

„Voice only assistants” are still pretty stupid today when it actually comes round to using them. Hey Google, how many points are Düsseldorf ahead of the second team in the league? Google Home cannot answer this question because it is too complex. Or the answer is unsatisfactory: „I am sorry... but I am learning all the time...” But playing music with Spotify, answering questions about the weather and Winnetou, and switching the light off in the kitchen using the speaker – all of this works fine in contrast.

But voice assistance on offer today is a far cry from a computer alternative that can be taken seriously. However, I am convinced that we are nearing with our voice technology the next evolution stage in all things electronic data processing. At the heart of every voice assistant is artificial intelligence, or “machine learning” algo-rithms that get a little better every time they are used. In this regard, the smart speaker is even right when it replies „But I am learning all the time...”.

Evolution means: the one who adapts best survives

I do not want to give my voice assistant an evolutionary-biological categorisation... but this much I do know about biology – animals can’t write but certainly do „speak” to each other. We humans also had the spoken word first. Writing was at some point only an auxiliary construct to enable us to communicate with each other. Because voice and language are so natural, I believe that voice technology has a big future.

Why take a detour – first writing something down I want to communicate – when it is much simpler by speaking? In evolution, it was always those who adapt to the environmental conditions better who win through.

This is fortunately not a column for language teachers. For spelling, grammar and handwriting style generally, voice assistance will have effects, supposedly no positive ones. But that’s another story …

In 2020, 30 percent of web interactions worldwide will be without a screen

Voice assistance is nothing new. Smartphones have been offering this service for years now. I still remember my first dictated „Siri” SMS, correcting took twice as long … but now with voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, the technology has achieved a breakthrough at the customer front. Almost 40 percent of Germans plan to buy a smart speaker from Amazon, Google or Apple.

In the US, 15 percent of households already have Amazon Echo devices. This year, one billion people across the globe will have contact with a voice assistant. And according to the much-respected Gartner Institute, 30 percent of all web interactions will be without a screen and keyboard by 2020.

ERGO with its own Voice Lab: Concluding insurance over the speaker

In the US, already 30,000 „voice skills” can be accessed using Alexa. With 50 new skills a day (!!!), the level of programming dynamics is currently just as high as back then for mobile applications. November 2017 saw us at ERGO launch in Berlin our very own „Scotty” voice project with 20 internal and external employees – and have since built the first application for our pure digital insurer nexible.

What is the difference between partial and full comprehensive cover? Where is the International Insurance Card valid? Most questions about car insurance are answered by Amazon Alexa, and soon also by Google Assist. But these are surely only the first small steps. Why shouldn’t customers at some point be able to update the mileage in the insurance folder, access the number for electronic insurance confirmation or buy entire policies?

I am looking forward to what coming years have in store on the voice front. The development potential is enormous. I believe that voice will gradually replace inputting from the keyboard. Speaking comes naturally to people!

I very much look forward to receiving comments, questions and suggestions.
Yours, Mark Klein

Author: Mark Klein

Mark Klein is Chief Digital Officer ERGO Group and Chairman of the Board of Management of ERGO Digital Ventures AG. Here you find Mark Klein on LinkedIn.

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