Market musings

Is Voice the Interface of the Future?

by Sasha Viasasha
October 25, 2017

There is some pretty awesome technology out there, and it can definitely help you save time and money—except when it doesn’t. The productivity gains of new technology are menaced by a navigation experience that is extremely disruptive. Anyone who spends their days using technology can attest to the frustration of navigating a patchwork of platforms and authentication fields. These siloed platforms or walled gardens can really slow you down.

Software that doesn’t play well together has made navigating the web painful. As you move between programs and applications, you pass through various digital checkpoints and gates. Each time you navigate through a landing page or sign-in page, you must enter personal information and sign-in credentials. This reality creates a disruptive experience, leading to what some are calling ‘password fatigue’. The average user has to remember 27 unique passwords, and security best practices mandates that users must change them frequently.

What is the solution?

Voice and other biometric data is stepping up to solve the password problem. Financial institutions like Barclays and communications companies like TalkTalk have ditched passwords for voice signatures that can reliably identify an account owner. The password of the future will probably be a combination of biometric identifiers comprised of vocal and facial data, which will create a unique signature that allows users to move beyond today’s password intensive web experience. Voice commanded search and natural language processing will eliminate the need to type in queries.

Speaking rather than typing isn’t just easier from a mechanical perspective, it also has a neurological component. The cognitive resources demanded by texting are far greater, and information is processed more slowly. Speaking is the ideal medium for processing complex, high context information. Spoken language is linked to the development of complex societies and cultures. Learning how to speak was an engineering feat that spanned millennia and may have developed in conjunction with tool-making. A recent experiment showed that people who were able to get verbal instructions made better stone tools than those who learned from gestures or just watching others make them. 

The first changes in the human vocal tract started appearing in the fossil record about 100,000 years ago. Human mouths got smaller, necks got longer to make room for an stretched larynx and the lingual artery expanded to bring more blood to larger tongues. By 50,000 years ago, all the mechanics of speech were in place, and symbolic expression soon followed in the form of the first cave paintings and sea shell jewelry. Speech made us human, and it looks like it will take us into the next step in our evolution. 

The ultimate hands-free interface

As AI becomes more robust and natural language processing approaches the 99 zone, today’s clunky and disconnected web experience will give way to a more uniform and consistent experience across the multi-platform and omni-channel world. Voice will become the new interface, allowing user to go hands-free and serving mobility like keyboards never could. Perhaps we’ll all improve our posture, too, as we learn to walk upright again for the second time in human evolution.

Voice will command applications and become the ideal interface for machine-to-human exchanges. The popularity of Alexa and Siri are already pointing in that direction. But if voice is a more ideal and natural format for communicating with machines, is it also a more ideal and natural format for communicating human-to-human?

Let’s just talk

Human-to-human voice communication may be even more valuable than human-to-machine exchanges. A recent study has shown that brains actually synch up when people talk to each other, even in the absence of visual cues like face expressions and gestures. In fact, voice-to-voice communication might be more effective than face-to-face communication.

Voice as a measure of sentiment

There is growing evidence that people are better able to control their face expressions then their voice when emotional. A recent study paired up strangers to discuss various topics, and found that participants were more accurately able to discern the emotions of their partners when the lights were off. The brain entrainment study that found synchronicity between brain waves when people were talking also used a barrier between interlocutors to rule out visual interference.

Voice as context for emotional and cultural meaning has implication that bring us back to human to machine interactions.

While we think of the face as representing emotions, and use emoticons in our texts to give context, the human voice, even more than the human face, may be a more reliable indicator of emotive sentiment

As AI evolves to understand emotional and cultural context, the voice can provide important cues and signals for the state of mind, allowing AI to more effectively process natural language queries and provide a more responsive and human experience.

At the center of this equation is the human experience of talking to each other, and the urgency of recovering and reclaiming conversation.

Why is it so hard to talk to each other now?

Technology has allowed us to shortcut the hard work of communication, and to gain a neurological reward when we fire off a quick text, email, or comment. But part of the price is the impaired cognitive function that comes with the uncertainty of asynchronous communication, and a reduction in overall productivity and engagement. Poor decision making is the ultimate outcome of poor communication and communication avoidance. 

This is why your voice might be your greatest asset in the digital age. For gaining clarity, communicating intention, and developing empathy as well as critical thinking skills, voice communication, specifically in the context of conversation, has no surrogate.

The value of a virtual phone system

Voice doesn’t live in the PBX systems or business phone lines of yesterday, it’s another application on your smartphone. Connecting your mobile phone infrastructure with smart tech that helps you talk is easier than you might think.

In just three minutes you can download an application that turns your mobile phone into a virtual phone system with all the functionality of a PBX system, but none of the complexity or expense. You’ll get a dedicated dial in number and the application masks your private number when you make or take calls. Mobile-to-mobile transfer and extension dialing allows you to provide full service from anywhere, and stay professional on the go.

Equipped with features to facilitate more conversations, Spoke provides a virtual assistant that learns from how you use your phone, and keeps your company directory up to date. Live presence helps you know when people are available to talk, and call context combines the low pressure of texting with the problem resolution power of a phone call. We’re working on other cool features, too, including AI that can analyze emotive sentiment and help you provide a better customer experience.

Want to learn more about Spoke Phone? Contact us for an interactive demo, or get your own 21-day free trial.