The Learning Curve of Voice User Interfaces

The Learning Curve Of Voice User Interfaces

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by Adrien Schmidt

I’d argue that analytics shouldn’t require fancy dashboards and complex logins, or even a computer screen. You should be able to ask a question, and simply get an answer. That is the beauty of VUI (voice-user interface), and its application and integration to technologies will change preexisting learned behavior.

VUI, which allows people to use hands-free voice input as an interaction between humans and machines, has taken a massive leap forward in the last decade, and it will only continue to become more prevalent in our lives.

Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Echo have made enormous strides. 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information in the past 12 months, while nearly 1 in 5 adults has used it in the last month. By 2020, it is predicted that nearly half of all of our searches will be through VUI, and people expect this to increase.

Consumers want to be able to use this technology to make dinner reservations, compare prices, and discover products. Humans, after all, can speak 150 words per minute as opposed to typing 40 a minute.

This marks a trend away from GUI (graphical user interface). GUIs run on graphics processors on your PC, Mac, tablet, phone, and other devices with a display. VUIs, however, typically do not run locally on a device but instead rely on computing capability in the cloud that registers your dialogue before responding to you. As we begin to see more utility in designing “connected” products and as the price of computing drops and smarter devices embedded with VUI will appear.

These devices may not necessarily have a display on them, for both cost and aesthetic reasons, and will be far easier to use than having to interact with your smartphone for connectivity.

As we move closer to this kind of technology, we will notice people molding their habits to speak with their technology rather than interact with it in other ways. External triggers will cause the user of the VUI platform to use these products more – increasing the need and desire to have voice be an option to complete tasks.

Habits are essentially unconscious thoughts, and it is only natural for us to evolve in our interaction with technology as it continues to advance. According to The Power of Habit author Charles Duhigg, the manner in which habits are formed is a three-pronged process. First, we have a trigger or a cue, so the behavior begins unfolding; then, we develop a routine; and finally, we expect a reward.

In the world of VUI, everyone is a beginner, thus there is a steep learning curve. Clarity and purpose will need to take precedence as companies begin to promote engagement with their brand through VUI apps. Individuals using these want a swift, immediate conversation that is concise and direct. The VUI should make the goal they want to achieve easily attainable, not clumsy and drawn-out. The best customer experience will be one that rewards simple, fast, and clear direction toward finding that recipe or checking the weather this afternoon.

Companies will find that users, in clear opposition to GUI, will want uncluttered, minimalist interaction as opposed to the vibrant, content-rich interfaces they may be accustomed to. When it comes to VUI, more information is only needed when asked for it – users won’t want an onslaught of content unless they ask for it. This presents a challenge when it comes to open-ended questions, intonation, and differentiating prompts and statements.

In addition, VUI will force companies to face the true nature of their brand’s voice. Mimicking real-life speech patterns could end up confusing the user as opposed to making the experience more enjoyable; thus, developers should look to simplify language, providing only the most necessary and requested information so as not to confuse the customer through creative bits of jargon.

With VUI, the user has free reign to interact with the device in a way that is a stark difference from the world of GUI, posing numerous challenges for companies. When ordering food, for example, if a user is presented with three options, such as “hamburger,” “pizza,” and “burrito,” and the user says “fries,” developers must be prepared with how the VUI is going to respond. Companies need to be careful to not patronize the user with repeating the choices ad nauseam and devise a solid game plan to respond to errors or unexpected speech.

It is vitally important to prepare for the unexpected when mapping dialogues and managing errors. With GUI, inputs are recognized without a doubt. In speech recognition, the possibility of errors can be frequent, jeopardizing user satisfaction as well as the usefulness of the application. Developers and marketers need to be prepared to devise an error handling method that doesn’t add unnecessary complexity to the device and create even more errors and unpredictability.

As society at large implements more and more of this VUI technology, time will be saved, people will be perceived as less rude when interacting with search engines at the dinner table, and individuals will gain more independence. People with visual challenges, physical disabilities or memory loss, along with those who aren’t necessarily tech-savvy, will benefit by having the entire world not at their fingertips, but at the command of their voice.

The way we access information will be accelerated, and the continual development of AI will make VUIs smarter, as machine learning adapts to speech patterns, preferences, and contexts as needed.

Systems based on VUI are able to provide users, for the first time, a completely immersive experience that is nuanced and more akin to human conversation than previous forms of digital interaction, as virtual assistants, smart home caretakers, and business associates.

Routines will be formed through VUI if the process is smooth and natural with the reward being a clear and concise solution to the human problem or question at hand.

This will create a freer experience for the user while forming habits that stick through products people love. Companies, however, need to understand that less is more when it comes to their brand interacting with users in their personal spaces through spoken dialogue.

About the author

Adrien Schmidt
Adrien Schmidt
CEO & Co-Founder at | Website

Aristotle is a conversational analytics platform that lets you chat with your data, anywhere conversation is happening.

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