Did you know that speech recognition tools have been around for six decades? In 1952 Bell Labs built AUDREY, the world’s first speech recognition tool - a six-foot high relay rack capable of recognizing digitals with 97-99% accuracy (so long as the inventors were speaking).
Voice technology has certainly come a long way since then, but until recently accurate voice recognition has seemed just out of reach. For most of the 2000s, speech recognition plateaued at 80%, according to itbusiness.ca. Whilst voice commands were supported in Windows Vista and Mac OS X, they just weren’t accurate or user friendly enough to be worth using.
In the past few years, all that has changed. From the release of Siri, the first modern digital assistant in 2011 to the commercial breakthrough of voice-first devices like the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo, voice-based digital assistants are finally making themselves heard. As we’ve been writing about lately, voice recognition is now accurate enough that digital assistant can now succeed at work.
Voice assistants are ready for the prime time
The organizations that use voice-first digital assistants stand to make digital significant savings. As we’ve covered before, they could reduce productivity waste by $5,700 per employee, per year simply by improving enterprise search. If all you have to do to find information at work is ask a digital assistant, rather than manually dig through every business app you use, then not only are you getting a better employee experience, you’ve also got more time to actually get work done.
Some companies have already spotted these benefits. Earlier this year Spiceworks announced that 29% of organizations have either implemented at least one chatbot or digital assistant, or are planning to in the next year. This figure rises to 40% for large businesses, showing that there’s already significant demand for smart assistants at the top levels of the enterprise.
With Amazon and Google having already provided high-quality APIs and tools, like Cloud Text-to-Speech and Amazon Alexa for Business, this is the perfect time for businesses to get started with voice interfaces and integrations for their apps. To help you get going, we’ve put together 3 ways that voice assistants are already changing the office.
1. Staying notified without looking at a screen
Even though it can often feel like we’re constantly attached to screens, waiting for the next important email or text message to arrive, this doesn’t mean we always can be.
There are plenty of situations where you might not want to look at a screen but might still want to know if you get the email you’ve been waiting for, whether you’re driving, working away from a computer or just walking down the street to the coffee shop.
Smart assistants with voice-integrations can easily help here. If you have Alexa in your car with the right Alexa skills it can easily be set to read notifications from your phone, business email, Slack or MS Teams out as soon as they arrive. Some Alexa for Business skills can even connect to your entire digital employee experience platform and receive notifications from Salesforce, SAP or SharePoint.
Obviously you probably don’t want to be told about every email, notified about every SharePoint workflow update or be read everyone’s lunch orders from Slack. Thankfully you can set your personal Alexa devices so it only notifies you when top-priority updates so you’re only interrupted when you really need to be.
2. Control your office with the power of your voice
Just as we’re now using smart devices at home, from our lights and heating to our home security, they are increasingly being installed in the workplace. According to Swedish smart building analysts Memoori, we’re “at an inflection point in the evolution of the office” with “tenants, owners and technology all hungry to promote smart workplaces” in order to boost productivity.
From digital whiteboards like the Cisco Spark and Microsoft Surface Hub, to IoT room management systems and desks that can alert you when you’ve been sitting or standing too long, smart office technology has arrived.
Voice assistants can ensure that all this new technology doesn’t end up hindering productivity, giving employees more devices and interfaces to learn, by empowering users to control them withvoice commands alone. Instead of fiddling with an app for your new IoT conference room when you want to start a meeting, all you have to do is ask your digital assistant to “start the meeting”. If you’ve also taken steps to unify your technology into one single Unity API, then this has the added benefit of taking away any need to install a different app for each piece of smart office tech you’ve installed.
3. Giving everyone access to digital tools
Using voice-first digital assistants to get things done at work can be immediately compelling, and highly intuitive. As Amazon CTO Werner Vogels argues, voice interfaces are compelling because your voice “may well be considered the universal user interface.”
By contrast, the User Experience for many business apps can be extremely fiddly, difficult to parse or require you to constantly use a keyboard or touchscreen. Not everyone can do this. Some people don’t work in environments where using devices is feasible, particularly in logistics, maintenance and healthcare. At the same time, some employees may just have difficulty with certain digital technologies, forcing them to ask specialists for help.
Digital assistants can change this by helping employees access any part of your digital employe experience platform that they need, anywhere and at any time using their voice. They can allow logistics workers to find out where stock is, or where they need to be, hands-free and empower employees to carry out tasks in enterprise software just by vocalizing what they want and letting their voice assistant take the care of the rest.