Voice Is The New Killer App

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Typing will soon be a thing of the past. Voice is the new killer app.

Not all typing (of course). Those who want too write by typing will type, but unless you’re a writer (and even then), voice will be the killer app. I’m not just talking about the proliferation of smart speakers or how voice technology is impacting the current state of artificial intelligence and chatbots, but it’s going to be everywhere and it will quickly become invisible to us (like electricity), so let’s pause now to marvel at how dramatic of a change this will be. There was an interesting quote in today’s edition of Axios AM (which, if you don’t subscribe to is an excellent news source). At an event at the Economic Club in Washington, D.C., AT&T Chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson, had this to say about the pending bandwidth expansion that is 5G:

“We carry around these devices and they’re bigger than they should be, because there’s a lot of computing in here, there’s a lot of storage in here. When you get to 5G, all that computing, all that storage goes away — it’s back in the network. These form factors, some would say they shrink. I say they go away. It is conceivable that we’re going to be moving into a world without screens, a world where this [points to his glasses] is your screen. You don’t need any more of a form factor than this, once the computing and storage requirements move out and into the network. And guys like you [waving to the TV cameras in the back] can think very differently about how you deliver your content to your customers. It becomes a delivery without screens. It’s just a totally different experience.”

Stop and think about that.

You can (easily) scoff at this, if you remember the hype behind Google Glass or double-take at the notion that we will all be wearing some kind of glass format (they called them “Glassholes”!), but it may be from your Apple Watch or any other kind of connected device (why wear glasses, if any and all appliances have some kind of screen or there’s a smart speaker there?). This idea that 5G changes the viewing experience by removing the need for storage, forces a change in devices, which forces a change in how we consume, which forces a change in the screens that we use, and so on and so on and so on. “A work without screens” is not a new concept, but it’s pushing further into reality as it pushes further away from concept. Gartner predicated that 30% of all searches will happen without a screen in four years. From Gartner:

“Gartner analysts predict that voice interactions will eventually overtake typing a search query. By eliminating the need to use your hands and eyes for browsing, ‘vocal interactions’ become the utility for Web sessions to find content while multitasking — walking, socializing and exercising. About 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps… Gartner says that many brands are finding that the level of adoption, customer engagement and return on investment (ROI) delivered by their mobile applications are significantly less than expected, according to Gartner. Some will replace them with chatbots, interacted voice-responsive snippets of artificial intelligence.”

That news is already 3 years old. It’s happening now.

It’s true. The MediaPost article, Gartner Predicts 30% Of Searches Without A Screen In 4 Years, is from October 2016. The data stands true. The change is happening. Back in January this was reinforced by MediaVilliage and their article, Voice Search Is Replacing Keyword Data:

“As more people buy voice-enabled devices, adoption of voice search is set to rise with some even predicting that it will replace text as the primary means of searching – like how smartphones overtook desktop. Exploring the growth of voice search, an interesting search patent gives us a view into how it’s able to remove entities (i.e. people/things/items from consecutive searches), leaving brands without full knowledge of what people were searching for. Search is more than an isolated task; people search for related topics at different times of the day, dipping in and out, but querying the same theme. On Google‘s 20th anniversary, they said search is a journey, citing its ability to decipher and sync early searches in awareness through to a journey into research and purchase.”

Now add in the “world without screens” comment from Mr. Stephenson.

It’s a stunner and a head-shaker. Smart speakers are not the killer app. Voice skills are not the killer app. Voice is the killer app. The way that we will communicate, connect and engage with technology will be with our voice. As I have written before (and others have stated as well), voice is the ultimate user experience. Natural language removes all of the complexities of navigation and technology. Asking, commanding, interacting and beyond. Smart audio is not just about using your voice to ask technology something, the “killer app” component is what comes back as well. These screens, speakers, watches, glasses, appliances, etc… won’t simply be dumb terminals taking commands, they will be the users’ assistants and co-pilots. They will recommend, prompt and adapt to the experience by providing an additional layer of thinking and strategy. Instead of just taking a command to make a reservation at a restaurant, the smart audio interaction will know where you will be, it will know where your guest will be, it will know your schedules, it will know the kind of restaurants you like, and more. It will be one step ahead of you. It will make a handful of recommendations (in enough time to secure a proper reservation) with little interaction from you and I. It will change everything.

If you’re looking for the next killer app, it’s voice.