Voice assistants: why has voice search become so popular?

By PlaysDev
Published: Apr 05, 2024

There are more than 110 million virtual assistant users in the US, and this technology is especially common in smartphones and smart speakers. As of 2019, Amazon’s Alexa was supported on approximately 60,000 different smart home devices worldwide. At the same time, if earlier smart solutions were presented only by the main players – Google, Yandex, Apple or Amazon, now more economical but competitive options from Xiaomi and Baidu are gaining popularity.

A wireless speaker with a built-in virtual voice assistant, it performs tasks such as searching for information, playing music, making a shopping list, etc., when receiving voice commands from users. But how does this happen? How does audio translate into commands that the virtual assistant can understand and immediately execute?

A voice assistant

A voice assistant is a virtual assistant that is powered by artificial intelligence. It recognizes the user’s speech, can analyze answers and executes the commands spoken.

Voice assistants vary in several ways, including functionality, the platform they are designed for, and specific capabilities.

  1. Personal voice assistants: Such as Apple’s Siri, Google’s Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana. They are usually integrated into mobile devices, smart homes, smart speakers and other gadgets, and can help with searching for information, managing devices and applications, scheduling, sending messages and much more.
  2. Voice assistants for business: Such as IBM Watson Assistant or Salesforce Einstein Voice. They are intended for commercial purposes such as automating business processes, processing customer requests, and analyzing data.
  3. Voice assistants in cars: Many modern cars come equipped with voice assistants such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which can help drivers with navigation, media control and other tasks without taking their eyes off the road.
  4. Voice assistants in smart homes: Smart home assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomePod include voice assistants that can control smart devices in the home such as lights, TVs, thermostats, security systems and more.

How do voice assistants recognize speech?

Voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant use speech recognition (ASR) technology called pattern-based speech recognition. When you speak into your device’s microphone, the sound waves are converted into a digital signal. This signal is then analyzed by the voice assistant, which tries to match it with known patterns of words and phrases.

Machine learning algorithms are used for this purpose, which are trained on large volumes of audio data.

During training, these algorithms learn how sounds relate to specific words and phrases (this is called natural language processing, or NLP). When you say something, the voice assistant analyzes that digital signal and compares it with what it learned previously. It then tries to determine what words or phrases you said and returns to you with an answer if it has found suitable data for your request.

Cases of implementation of voice assistants by businesses

Walmart has developed a voice assistant for its mobile app that allows customers to search for products, check prices, create shopping lists and place orders using their voice.

Duolingo, a popular language learning app, uses voice assistants to teach pronunciation and comprehension in a foreign language. Users can practice their speaking skills by interacting with the voice assistant.

Marriott International has installed speakers with Alexa voice assistant in its hotel chain. Using a voice assistant, guests can order any room service, adjust the room temperature, turn on the TV, music, lights, etc.

Bank of America has integrated a voice assistant into its mobile app, allowing customers to perform bank account transactions, check balances and transaction history, and receive financial advice using their voice.

Domino’s Pizza has developed a voice assistant for its mobile app that allows customers to order pizza and track the status of the order using voice commands. This simplifies the ordering process and makes it more convenient for customers.

About creating your own assistant – developing a chat bot

According to data from Just Al, developing a chatbot can take from a week to 3.5 months and cost on average about $2,700. However, you can develop it yourself, in which case you will only have to purchase a license to use the designer, the price of which is up to 700 depending on the number of users.

Before you start developing, determine what goals you want to achieve with your assistant. For example, this could be automating answers to frequently asked questions, providing information about a product or service, processing orders, or solving customer problems.

Choice of platform and technologies. What platform do you want to create a chatbot on? Choose a platform based on the needs and preferences of your consumers: web application, mobile application, smart device. Then choose the technologies and tools to implement your assistant. For example, to create a chatbot, you can use frameworks and development platforms such as Dialogflow, Microsoft Bot Framework, IBM Watson Assistant, or simply write your own bot based on the Natural Language Processing API.

After that design the interface. The most important thing is that it is intuitive for users and meets their needs. Determine the functionality your assistant will provide and create interaction scenarios. If your assistant will be using machine learning or neural networks for natural language processing, you may need a training dataset to train the model. Collect and prepare data for training and testing your assistant.

Before launching, the assistant goes through a testing phase. Here, possible bugs and shortcomings are identified, then the chatbot is released to users. It is very important to respond to user feedback in order to adjust the AI ​​to meet consumer needs.

Privacy issues

The use of voice assistants comes with a number of privacy concerns for both users and businesses. For users, the main concern is the protection of their personal data and sensitive information that may be processed and stored by the voice assistant. Our voice queries and conversations can be recorded and analyzed by companies, creating a potential threat to our privacy. Additionally, there is a risk of unauthorized access to personal data if voice recognition systems are not properly secured.

For businesses, privacy concerns relate to the processing and storage of user information that may be collected through voice assistants. Violating the confidentiality of customer data can result in serious reputational and legal consequences for a company, including loss of customer trust and fines for violating data protection laws. In addition, businesses need to ensure the security of their voice systems and protection from cyber attacks aimed at compromising confidential information and disrupting the functioning of voice assistants.

For example, in 2020 it became known that Apple was storing and analyzing audio recordings received through the Siri voice assistant, which raised privacy concerns. Apple has since made changes to its privacy policies to give users more control over their data. And with the help of Amazon Ring, attackers generally gained access to Ring cameras and built-in microphones, which led to the leakage of video and audio recordings of events occurring in the house.

To address these issues, businesses need to strictly comply with data protection laws, communicate transparently with users about how their data is used and processed, and take steps to ensure the security and protection of personal information. This includes data encryption, restricted access to sensitive information, regular security audits and employee data protection training. Only subject to high security standards and trusted use of voice assistants for both users and businesses.

Voice AI assistant is an effective tool for business. With it, you can automate many routine business processes in order to focus on the main thing. For example, automatic responses to users, facilitating the procedure for placing an order, informing about the availability of goods, opening hours, and so on. Consider developing a chatbot for your business so you can scale it to meet the needs of your customers.

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