April 15, 2024
AI revolutionizes voice interaction: ushering in a new era in technology

It is becoming increasingly common that we control and communicate with machines using our voices. This behavioral shift in how we interact with our most valuable and powerful devices is having a profound impact on our relationship with technology and many aspects of broader society.

This recent move toward a voice-controlled world has accelerated exponentially with the advent of generative AI and large language models. Instead of the intermittent, often frustrating interactions that occur with machines like Alexa or Siri, generative AI provides naturally flowing, context-sensitive, two-way communication.

One person who has carefully considered these implications is Tobias Dengel, author and president of Willowtree. in his recent book Future Sound – The coming era of voice technologyDangle explores the ways in which the world is likely to change when the final technological barriers to programming and controlling machines are overcome.

Why is sound so transformative?

Dengel argues that changes in the way we communicate with machines have much broader implications than simply allowing us to interact with machines.

The more relevant and fluent nature of natural language means we will use technology more efficiently and it will become more accessible to many people.

In our conversation, he told me, “Humans can speak three times faster than they can type on a keyboard – perhaps the average person can speak five times faster than they can type on a mobile device… That’s the key insight .

“I guarantee you that when you take something that used to take three minutes and now you can do it in 15 seconds, the world will change overnight.”

His position is that the world is going to shift very rapidly towards adopting a model where voice is our primary interface with machines. In other words, for complex machine operations – like programming computers – we no longer need to learn the machines’ language because they will just speak our language.

Access is a big issue here. The move to voice will democratize technology, meaning a larger and more diverse range of individuals can harness complex systems to solve problems. Dengel’s position is that it is not just about convenience; This is a fundamental change in our relationship with technology.

As he says, “You will see every interface between humans and machines changing to voice-first.”

voice in action

Throughout his book – and in our conversation – Tobias gives examples of how this change is already happening.

Of course, this includes the voice assistants we all have in our homes and phones, but he makes clear that this trend will go far beyond Alexa and Siri.

One of his favorite examples is Cathay Pacific, which he says has implemented natural language technology into an assistive tool designed to help with routine maintenance and cleaning of aircraft.

“Now when they’re doing their job, they have a voice that says, ‘Hey, the armrest for seat 13C is broken.’

He also highlighted voice-control technology developed for military aircraft, which is now being deployed in civil aviation.

“All the accidents happened because the pilots didn’t know what the plane was doing and they couldn’t contact the plane – if they had a voice that said, you know, turn off the autopilot, do XYZ, go there. , Whatever it was, it could have avoided those accidents.”

As an example of how this could revolutionize day-to-day technologies, he suggests that banking apps would be vastly improved when users simply asked for what they wanted rather than having to navigate hundreds of possible functions on a small screen. And get results.

He also mentions a Willowtree customer – a large soft drink manufacturer – that has created a voice system that enables them to order replacement parts for any of their machines or dispensers in vending machines or restaurants with just voice. This saves hours of time that were previously used searching the catalog for location and item codes.

Ethics and Challenges

It is difficult to say what impact this change is likely to have on society. One of the biggest questions is about its impact on human jobs and employment.

“Everything is showing us there will be more jobs,” Dengel says, “but there will also be disruptions.”

“And I think that’s where policy decisions, the government has to step in and support.”

He believes those most obviously at risk are roles like call center operators that are already being made redundant by conversational AI tools.

But he argues that this will be offset not only by anticipated new jobs like “prompt engineers,” but also by the ways in which we will be able to create value using AI.

The issues raised regarding security are equally serious. We have already seen AI voice spoofing being used by fraudsters and blackmailers. There is a real risk that as AI becomes cheaper and more accessible, these attacks will become widespread, causing more victims.

However, Dengel is not so concerned about the more far-reaching concerns that are sometimes raised.

He says, “People talk about AI running amok and battling humans… I’m not too worried about that, at least in our lifetime.

“ChatGPT is amazing, but it can’t even change your mailing address for your American Express card right now because it’s not wired into the system. But it can be used very effectively for evil.”

Preparing for a voice-powered future

So what can we do to make sure we are prepared for this universal shift to voice-controlled technology and natural language interactions with machines?

Dengel suggests that the answer lies in meeting the challenge head-on. This means bringing together teams made up of technologists, engineers, designers, communications experts and business leaders. Their main focus is to identify opportunities and potential risks to the business, allowing them to be managed proactively rather than reactively.

“That’s always the first step,” he says, “because you start to define what’s possible, but you’re also doing it in terms of what’s realistic because you’ve got your technical people involved as well. ..and then making a roadmap.”

It’s a “workshop” approach pioneered by Apple and adopted by various tech giants that have found themselves at the forefront of the emerging wave of change. But it equally applies to any forward-looking business or organization that doesn’t want to go unpunished.

Dengel says that while addressing a group of interns recently, he told them, “I wish I were you – there’s going to be more innovation in the next five years than in the last five or maybe the last 20 years, because conversational “AI and generative AI come together. It’s an amazing experience and an amazing time.”

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