A recent study found that voice assistance use in the UK is increasing, with a recorded 28 per cent of respondents saying they use these tools multiple times a day.
Whether you are a current user or looking for a voice assistant-enabled device, understanding the potential impact of voice assistants in your life is essential. Are they living up to the promise of convenience and data protection? Let’s find out the answers below.
Understanding Voice Assistants
Voice assistants are digital systems that use language processing, machine learning, and voice recognition to understand spoken commands. Once they process the commands, they generate relevant information or perform particular actions based on your requests.
Some voice assistants are specific to particular applications (e.g., Amazon Echo Wall Clock). However, multi-platform integrations allow you to use most voice assistants on digital devices, including smartphones, speakers, laptops, and computers. These voice assistant integrations are usually open-ended to perform most of your commands.
Why People Use Voice Assistants
Voice assistants are handy tools that facilitate our daily tasks when used correctly. Let’s examine the other benefits you can reap from using one:
Provides multi-language support
While we recognise English as universal, not everyone can speak this language. That is why voice assistants have multi-language support to understand different dialects and nuances. This feature allows you to interact with the assistant and make straightforward commands.
Moreover, multilingual voice assistants can respond to bilingual or multilingual users without changing the settings. They may also recognise your regional accent and provide real-time translations. These attributes can offer greater reach and accessibility.
Uses a natural language detection feature
Natural language processing (NLP) is a significant element in voice assistants. This system is a subset of linguistics, computer science, and artificial intelligence (AI) that focuses on making text and speech understandable to computers. It helps voice assistants understand how we naturally talk.
For instance, when you ask, “What is directory assistance,” NLP helps predict the sound of the following words or sentences. It also enables your voice assistant to learn sound combinations and identify the differences between similar but unique nuances—like the words pat, pad, and bad.
Offers convenience and companionship
Another advantage of voice assistants is the convenience they can offer. Since they are typically built into most electronics, you won’t need to open a specific app to access yours. Many voice-enabled devices have buttons that are one click away to activate. Concurrently, you can swipe from a particular corner if your smartphone has a gesture that opens your assistant.
Voice assistants can also be companions. Many people talk to their assistants about any topic when they feel lonely or sad. For example, Amazon’s Alexa has a “Conversation Mode” that allows more free-flowing exchanges, similar to how we talk to our loved ones.
Enriches work efficiency and productivity
Voice assistants can help executives and employees focus on more significant tasks. You can use your assistant to automate manual tasks, such as note-taking, scheduling appointments, and checking your schedule. You can even work hands-free through voice typing.
Suppose you forgot your schedule for the day or the week. By asking your voice assistant about your upcoming schedule, you no longer need to open and browse your calendar. This way, you can avoid disruptions and focus better on your current task, enhancing productivity.
Potential Drawbacks of Voice Assistants
Like other technologies, voice assistants are not perfect. They also have flaws that you must be aware of.
Here are the common drawbacks of voice assistants:
Difficulty understanding words and commands
Although improving, voice assistants may still not comprehend some words, particularly when these are not in the dictionary.
When assistants don’t understand your commands, you won’t get the correct results you’re expecting. You’ll have to repeat yourself or manually enter your search query. Manual search can even be frustrating because, even after all the commands, you still end up typing your queries.
For instance, you ask your assistant to open a specific item listing, but you don’t provide details. The assistant may not accurately show you what you’re looking for, requiring you to speak again with more details.
Loss of focus on tasks
While voice assistants enable work efficiency, they can still make you lose focus on the current tasks. Your attention is divided when you talk to your assistant while finishing a task. It can also disrupt your in-person conversations.
Suppose you’re catching up with a friend. Then, you ask your voice assistant to play a song to liven up the mood during your conversation. You can lose your momentum and forget bits of what you’re talking about earlier.
The best way to avoid these is to ensure you stop what you’re doing before making a command. This way, you won’t struggle to remember what you did before giving instructions to your assistant.
Smart devices with voice assistants are usually costly
Smart devices with voice assistants are often expensive and consume electricity heavily. Even if you can afford one, you may pay hefty monthly electricity bills if you constantly use it. Bills can even be higher when you have many smart home devices.
Concurrently, you can’t use your voice assistants without electricity and an internet connection. Remember that your internet connection is an additional utility. So, buying a voice-enabled device can raise your overall monthly bills.
Trust issues with data privacy
Each time you interact with your voice assistant, it records your commands. It might also do the same if it hears something similar to its wake word, particularly when having private conversations.
You want to ensure your assistant doesn’t eavesdrop on your private conversations by checking for a button or switch that stops it from listening. You may also activate a sound or light alert that notifies you when your assistant is actively listening.
Understand How Voice Assistants Can Influence Your Life
For many households, voice assistants are now a standard. While they can make your life easier, they can also cause problems you might fail to recognise when you don’t properly use them or understand their privacy policies.
Understanding how voice assistants work is essential so you won’t overuse them. It can also help you maintain your consumer and data privacy rights so the manufacturers can’t exploit your sensitive information.