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Here is your 5-minute rundown of the state-of-the-art developments in voice and chat UX.

As Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google create new features and stand-alone products based on natural language (spoken word) interaction, they will undoubtedly have a major impact on users’ expectations for both search and service. And we all know that where Google and Apple go, so go we all—eventually.

Apple

Major Siri Update (still a rumor)

In 2015 Apple purchased a speech processing startup called VocalIQ. Rumor has it that the popular virtual assistant will get a significant improvement in accuracy and understanding, moving from something like 20 percent to more than 90 percent in results accuracy. But due to the closed nature of the Siri API, we’ll believe it when we see it.

Google

Allo (chat)

Incorporating the best of traditional chat and Google Now, Allo lets you turn any chat into a threesome—you, your friend, and Google AI. If, for instance, you’re chatting about finding a restaurant or bar, Allo can proactively pull up suggestions that you can incorporate directly into your conversation. You can even make reservations without leaving your chat. But if it tells me to eat better, it’s back to iMessage for me.

Amazon

Alexa

If you haven’t experienced Amazon’s voice-driven household assistant, you’re missing one of the most tightly integrated voice interfaces available. Alexa’s integration into the Amazon ecosystem is an addictive drug for Prime members, offering everything from audiobooks and music streaming to simple voice-based ordering of any repeat Amazon purchase. Not only that, but Amazon wisely created its Echo hardware and Alexa software with two distinct advantages over alternative voice interface technologies. The first: it’s stationary. You plug it in at home and leave it there. That negates a great deal of place-based contextual ambiguity that other platforms have to deal with. The second: it’s an open platform for developers, unlike Apple’s Siri. Any developer can add new “skills” like home automation control and calendar management. There’s nothing stopping marketers from adding customer service and support, order tracking, or a voice-based FAQ into the Alexa Skillset.

Facebook

DeepText and Chat Bots

Chat bots are nothing new. They have been around longer than Internet chat itself (Google “Eliza”). But the latest twist is that where once those bots responded to keywords with a choice of canned responses based on carefully coded rules, today they are learning language and meaning, basically on their own. Facebook’s DeepText technology is a neural network designed to grow abilities and understanding the same way a newborn learns through exposure—by consuming and parsing the conversations of over a billion Facebook members. Also like a child, DeepText can learn English, Chinese, French, or any other language or subject based purely on inputs. In the not-too-distant future marketers will couple this ability to understand natural language with specific subject matter expertise and, suddenly, have a virtual customer service rep, a sales “person,” or brand ambassador that can speak every language on the planet and be available 24/7 across the globe.


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