They’ve only been around for a few decades, but smartphones have changed the way we live and consume information.
So, as hard as it is to imagine life without our screens, that’s exactly where technology seems to be moving – into a ubiquitous state, where the interface is no longer a hard touch pad, but voice activated.
Voice activated technology has been around for awhile now, but as time progresses – it’s picking up speed. Now it’s everywhere, from in our vehicles, to our lamps and fridges, and it’s only just getting started.
Google, Amazon and Apple Compete for Voice Activated Tech Domination
Pushing at the forefront of this voice activated revolution, are Amazon, Google and Apple, each of which have their own respective voice activated home device.
Amazon has its Echo, Google has ‘Home’ and Apple has its HomePod (unveiled at WWDC 2017). All of these branded voice activated assistants appear to be cylindrical ‘speakers,’ but don’t be fooled. These intelligent home devices aren’t intended to simply pipe out music (although they can, if you ask them too). Instead, they’re almost constantly listening, waiting for their owners to make a request. Once alerted to a query, the devices will deliver a plethora of information or fill a number of commands, such as playing a favorite song, announcing a weather report, updating a calendar, building a grocery list or pulling up information from the net, to name a few.
What’s Better – Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod?
As each powerhouse company unveils and develops their technology, the question that will persist is: Which device is better?
Apple says the HomePod provides a superior audio experience, while Amazon and Google stand behind the range of functionality that their intelligent speakers provide.
Ultimately, whoever wins out in the race to be ‘the’ voice activated virtual assistant will depend on several factors.
While the most obvious one might be price, how providers set up the features and capabilities may help sway buyers to a more expensive choice.
In this realm, two key features stand out:
1. How Well Does Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod Mimic the Human Voice?
The fact that these speakers are, well, speaking, means that their ultimate test will come from how well they can converse in a natural tone.
After all, interacting with a robotic voice is fine when there are no other options, but today’s consumers are all about the experience. Nothing beats having the ability to carry on a natural conversation, and so whichever device is able to provide the better conversational experience will win.
And on this front, the voice that the providers choose – including the number of voice options that they provide – will be one factor that helps dictate how comfortable and seamless the conversation feels to the person interacting with the device.
Apple, in particular, has been very transparent about its efforts to improve its core voice – Siri. Improvements they’re striving towards include more natural elocution, and even adding context to the responses Siri gives, thanks to context the tech will gather from your calendar, location and current activity on your phone.
2. How Accurate is Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod with their Response?
You’ve heard it said that content is king, well, that stands for voice activated virtual assistants too.
One only needs to spend some time on YouTube looking over videos of real people interacting with Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod to see how interactions can go astray. Sometimes these faux pas are hilarious, other times they’re disastrous.
Not every device is able to accurately pick up and understand what the requestor is asking, all the time, with 100% accuracy, and so this will be an area of improvement to watch as the technology evolves.
When you consider the nuances of the human voice, the challenges become clear. For instance, a child’s voice may not pronounce each word with the clarity that an adult voice does. However, no matter how challenging the gauntlet, the expectation from the consumer is that the technology should function flawlessly, regardless. They want providers to deliver on their promise of a truly conversational technology.
When Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple HomePod is called on to answer a question or complete a task, the response that comes back need to be accurate. This is especially important when it comes to interacting with children – to ensure that the devices are not inadvertently delivering graphic content to young ears that cannot (and should not) process what they’re hearing.
Whichever device is able to hone its listening, despite the nuances of the speaker’s voice (accents, dialects, syntax of language etc.,) and therefore connect the user with the best content, will win.
Voice Activated Tech: The Future or a Fad?
One of the most beautiful aspects of the evolution of technology, are the unexpected turns it takes.
Voice activated technology has been around for decades, and more and more, it seems that companies are making a use-case for integrating it into everyday life.
So while a fad is unlikely, rapid change in this field is, meaning that those who are late to take advantage of integrating voice activated tech in their products or offerings may be quickly left behind.
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