Voice Assistants Become More Proactive and 8 Other Predictions for 2022
Looking forward to 2022, there has been a significant mindset shift from predictions about advances in technology to insights into how technology is being refined to meet customer needs across industries.
Consumer adoption continues to grow with predictions estimating that by 2024, the number of digital voice assistants will reach 8.4 billion units—a number higher than the world’s population, and brands across industries are feeling the pressure to keep up with consumer demand and expectations for better user experiences.
While the global challenges of the last year may have been the catalyst to move voice AI technology from a nice-to-have for some companies to an essential element of their overall customer experience framework, we predict that some of those same elements will continue to push adoption forward with other factors further accelerating growth for specific applications and industries.
Our voice AI predictions for 2022 are organized into nine major categories:
Voice in enterprise
Voice AI for smart homes
Voice AI in gaming
1.“Voice assistants will become more proactive”
Prediction: “Up until now, the default behavior for a voice assistant has been to wait for a wake-up phrase or other form of user activation. In the near future, we will see voice assistants taking a proactive role and providing greater usefulness to users by collecting information about context and the situation and then taking the initiative to make helpful suggestions and take actions.” – Keyvan Mohajer, CEO, SoundHound Inc.
Consumers may start to see this type of interaction with in-car voice assistants first, getting information about vehicle statuses such as fuel levels, diagnostics and service needs, and system settings that may need attention. For example, when the fuel level is low, voice assistants may suggest gas stations nearby.
In addition, drivers may be able to get the weather, navigation, parking information, calendar updates, reminders, and to-do lists without asking based on the actions they are currently taking, the time of day or day of week, and normal routines.
When users opt-in to additional features, voice assistants can become truly personal assistants when allowed to store certain information and learn preferences. These personalizations may be extended into the smart home by connecting the car to IoT devices and other home automation systems—allowing drivers to perform tasks such as turning the lights off, setting the alarm, preheating the oven, or turning up the thermostat on their way home at the end of the day.
Once proactive voice assistants become available, we’ll see customer adoption rise. Implementation beyond automotive to other industries will grow as voice assistants prove their value by increasing ROI and delivering exceptional user experiences.
Outside the automotive market, our teams saw applications for proactive voice assistants in three key markets:
2. “User adoption will spike”
Prediction:“Attention to user experiences, better voice recognition technology, and more accurate responses will lead to an uptick in usage overall.” – James Hom, VP of Product, SoundHound Inc.
Every year, we see an increase in the number of consumers using voice assistants in smart speakers, cars, mobile apps, contact centers, and a number of other rapidly growing applications. Just as we saw a 5% spike in use of voice assistants at home in the first month of the pandemic, so do we expect to see another uptick as the majority of brands pursue a shared goal of implementing voice assistants that deliver consistent brand experiences regardless of channel.
The ubiquity of voice assistants across industries will also lead to an increase in usage as consumers are given more opportunities to create connections with companies through their voice user interfaces. For instance, smart TVs will make it easier and faster to find content in an ecosystem where new content is constantly being created and consumers are becoming increasingly overwhelmed and frustrated with clicking, swiping, and typing to find what they are looking for.
3. “Voice payments become a reality”
Prediction:“Soon, the sound of your voice will be as identifiable as your thumbprint. As such, voice assistants will be able to authenticate your saved payment methods while in your car, through your smart TV, or out at a local restaurant..” – James Hom, VP Product, SoundHound Inc.
Soon, conversational AI solutions will allow consumers to request and receive safe payments through a voice assistant on any channel. The first instances of these opportunities will most likely appear in automotive and home devices where people feel more comfortable making purchases.
In addition, the ability to screen out ambient noise, authenticate users, and validate payments will allow touchless interaction with payment devices in a variety of locations outside the home.
4. “Interactive voice ads take the stage”
Prediction: “As consumer behavior turns to voice interactions, the increase in engagement rates will get the attention of advertisers who will see the value of promoting their brands and offerings on individual voice platforms.” – Michael Zagorsek, COO, SoundHound Inc.
The ubiquity of voice assistants and the push to prove ROI on voice technology investments are already driving business leaders across industries to seek more avenues for monetization. Through partnerships and independently-owned ad networks, these companies will be delivering a combination of interactive voice ads and proactive and reactive purchasing suggestions to their audiences.
Voice ads and monetization opportunities haven’t become mainstream yet—due to the fear that introducing advertising will negatively affect the customer experience. But, proactive suggestions like asking if someone turning on a football game would like to order a pizza for delivery will add value to the customer experience, while generating revenue and real ROI on voice AI investments.
In addition, voice ads represent a huge opportunity for companies who will be able to measure audience response to their advertising messages in real-time and for consumers who can ask to hear more or pass over the ad to get to the content or experience they were originally seeking.
5. “Voice will move into the workplace”
Prediction: “Any work environment where there is a lot of noise, people are giving and receiving timely information, and where their hands are busy with other tasks will be key areas for the growth of voice assistant implementation.” – Majid Emami, VP of Engineering, SoundHound Inc.
Advances in voice AI technology such as echo cancellation, beam forming, and other noise cancellation innovations along with the availability of more Natural Language Understanding (NLU) in embedded applications will see voice assistants showing up to help workers be more efficient and productive.
Headsets and wearables with voice AI technology that’s either embedded or uses a hybrid connectivity model with some connection to the cloud will be made available to workforces for whom hands-free communication and information retrieval and reporting are critical to job performance.
Some likely applications include:
Energy and utility workers
Other noisy work environments
What’s more, companies who have experienced the convenience and efficiency of voice assistants for their customers will turn their attention internally and offer voice AI technology to their employees.
Likely scenarios for employee-facing voice assistant applications include HR platforms where employees report expenses and make travel plans. Instead of collecting receipts and waiting for an opportunity to access a computer, employees can make real-time expense claims and review reports for approval anytime and anywhere. In addition, making, canceling, and changing travel plans through a company travel planning application can happen on the go for employees who are away from their desks.
6. “ASR in the contact center moves beyond transcription”
Prediction:“Advances in automatic speech recognition (ASR) are creating new opportunities to transform customer experiences by allowing AI engines to accurately assess context and intent and provide agents with real-time guidance and suggestions.” – Dave Rich, VP Enterprise, SoundHound Inc.
ASR technology is already creating accurate and timely transcriptions for call centers, allowing companies to understand more about their products, services, performance, and customer attitudes. The next step in this process involves accurately identifying and reporting customer sentiment through conversational analytics.
In the near future, the combination of real-time transcription capabilities and technology that can identify intent will lead to interactive systems that can help companies better manage their remote call center workforce and create digital assistants that help agents to better understand customer questions and respond with the most up-to-date and accurate information.
7.“More voice-enabled devices in the home”
Prediction: “The availability of inexpensive microphones for individual smart home products combined with the advent of very good voice AI with natural language (NLU) capabilities for embedded and hybrid connected devices, will open up the possibilities for manufacturers voice-enabling every product.” – James Hom, VP Products, SoundHound Inc.
The availability of affordable voice AI and a range of connectivity options will catalyze the creation of voice assistants for a variety of devices throughout the home. Better embedded NLU and more connectivity options give device manufacturers the freedom to increase and improve the functionality of their products without complicating the interface for the user.
In addition, manufacturers looking for differentiation and more ways to create connections with customers will begin taking a creative approach to voice interfaces and adding different personalities appropriate to the situation. Soon your refrigerator might quip, “What? Pasta again? Maybe add a green salad to your entree.”
These personalized assistants will likely only store information locally, further alleviating concerns around privacy and “listening in” to household conversations that are associated with cloud-only smart speaker solutions.
8. “The gaming industry will adopt voice”
Prediction:“As soon as one company in the gaming industry elevates the user experience by adding a voice user interface, the rest of the industry will follow.” – Michael Zagorsek, COO, SoundHound Inc.
Voice AI is already in use in the gaming industry as companies like Readspeaker.ai build custom voices using advanced text-to-speech technology. However, gamer-to-game voice interfaces are still somewhere in the future. We may see some movement in 2022, but it’s a complicated effort as the voice user interface can originate in one of three places:
The gaming console
The game developer
The mobile app
Any one of these three players could emerge to lead gaming into the voice-first era, it’s just not clear who it will be. Who will take the first step?
Some game developers of multi-person games are already talking about using automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology to create real-time transcriptions of online gaming conversations in an effort to proactively control language and abuse. These transcriptions can also be used to help gamers who report abuse to prove their case and give gaming developers a reason to act.
9. “Voice AI will become a new ecosystem”
Prediction: “Traditional web search and manually interacting with machines will continue to exist, but just like other technological advances in the past, voice will form its own ecosystem as the preferred method of interaction with devices and brands.” – Keyvan Mohajer, CEO, SoundHound Inc.
As voice becomes the preferred interface for consumers, devices that don’t need a screen for operation will likely start to be manufactured without one. If you’re questioning the future adoption of voice AI, watch how Generation Z interacts with their handheld devices. Once the next generation of adults start expecting every device to answer them, device manufacturers will have to provide voice interfaces or be left behind.
In all, 2022 promises to be an exciting year for the voice AI industry as a whole and for companies that are providing the technologies and platforms that will help brands to design and develop customized voice assistants that meet their needs and the desires of their customers.
We predict that customer experience will still be king and that 2022 will reign as the year of the customer with voice interfaces creating frictionless, conversational, and hands-free access to technology. At SoundHound, we’re excited to see all the innovation that’s happened and continues to help us to progress toward our goal to voice-enable the world around us and allow people to interact with machines the way they do each other—by simply talking.
We have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore our independent voice AI platform at SoundHound.com and register for a free account. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.
Karen Scates is a storyteller with a passion for helping others through content. Argentine tango, good books, and great wine round out Karen’s interests.