Voice recognition and activation

Voice technology simplifies search and improves accessibility. This article is an extract from our 2018 Trends Report.

What is it about?

Devices that use voice for primary input and output have become more available and popular. Unlike chatbots, voice bots can interpret spoken words and carry out commands without the need to use text. Many voice bots take the form of intelligent personal assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana, but there are many more devices using voice search such as streaming media players (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV Stick, Roku), smart televisions, and game consoles. From 2015 to 2016, the number of shipped devices using voice for primary input and output jumped from 1.7 to 6.5 million.

Content creators are experimenting with voice applications they call “skills.” For example, the BBC created an interactive audio drama called The Inspection Chamber. Debuting as an Amazon Alexa skill in October 2017, it gives listeners a way to interact with the story and change its outcome. Hollywood has also released skills to accompany movies such as Dunkirk and Spider-Man: Homecoming. They let you play a game set in the stories’ universe or learn more about the movie and its cast.

Why is it important to our industries?

Voice technology does away with clumsy text searches via TV remotes, computers and so on. According to TiVo’s Q3 2017 Video Trends Report on American and Canadian markets, a third of respondents who own a home assistant device use it to stream and watch video content on a TV.

It also democratizes online accessibility and technology. You don’t need to read or write, just speak. In India, for example, many users rely on voice activation and imagery instead of typed searches and emails. Google now showcases photos and videos before text links at the top of certain searches. Indeed, it’s likely the next billion online users will access content vocally and with images over typing and text.

While consumer interest is obvious, there are still barriers to widespread adoption of voice search. Personalization (knowing who is asking the question), intent (understanding the context), and privacy (easing consumer concerns about the storage and use of personal data) stand out as areas that need improvement.

Interesting facts

TiVo’s Data Science team reviewed 10 months of voice search data from a major pay-TV provider. It found that close to 92% of all voice searches were for a particular title or channel.

Go deeper

More voice technology information appears in the substantial analysis Talk show – the rise of voice-based discovery published on Digital TV Europe.

Worth following

Several major voice-activated devices have just reached the Canadian market: while both Google Home (June 2017) and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick (November 2017) supports English and French, Amazon’s Echo (December 2017) only supports English. The adoption rate and use of these devices in Canada over the coming year will be of great interest, especially when it comes to discovering new content.

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