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Why Mobile Apps Need Voice Interfaces

January 18, 2021

Both Web and mobile innovations are progressing at an incredible rate, making any lack in these essential technologies a critical issue for any company. As long as a decade ago, a poorly optimized Web site could lead to your losing traffic and revenues. Today, businesses cannot afford to ignore technology trends. Don’t let your business fall behind the technology curve.

Creating voice user interfaces (VUIs) for mobile apps is the hottest trend right now—and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Voice is a natural user interface. Some leading brands have already boosted awareness of their mobile apps and increased customer engagement by adding voice capabilities that are powered by existing VUI platforms. For example, Snapchat has launched an in-app voice assistant that is based on SoundHound, which lets users trigger filters with voice commands, immediately improving user engagement and loyalty. Pretty soon, users won’t just appreciate the greater functionality and friendliness of a voice-powered mobile app, they’ll expect it.

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Natural, voice user interfaces are competing successfully with touch user interfaces—and voice interactions may even displace swiping and typing. Voice-powered apps offer increased functionality, saving users from complicated navigation, form filling, overlaid menus, and support. VUIs make it far easier for users to make requests—even if they don’t know the exact name of an item they’re looking for or where to find it on an app’s menus.

According to QuoraCreative, 40% of adults now use mobile voice search at least once a day. As shown in Figure 1, according to Voicebot.ai, over 45% of consumers in the U.S say they would “very much like” or that “it would be nice” to have voice-assistant features in their favorite mobile apps.

Figure 1—Many mobile-app users want voice interactions
Many mobile-app users want voice interactions

Why Voice User Interfaces Are Important

There are several reasons why voice user interfaces are becoming so popular.

  • Voice-recognition technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. Demand for voice-recognition technology is high. Possible applications for voice recognition extend far beyond the chatbots and voice assistants that people refer to collectively as conversational marketing. Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) has jump-started numerous socially important projects for people with special needs. Moreover, to win against globalized competition, some major companies receive pump-priming grants from their government. With governments contributing such incentives to the voice-recognition industry annually, the potential for this technology is evolving rapidly. As a consequence, the number of companies investing in enterprise-grade voice-recognition projects is also increasing.
  • Performing voice searches is becoming common. Speech-recognition technologies are three times faster than typing. No wonder people are performing more voice searches. According to the Global Web Index 2018 Insight Report, around 27% of online users worldwide use mobile voice search. Therefore, using SEO to optimize search engines to take advantage of this growing voice-search trend is crucial for businesses. Voice searches encourage people to use long-tail keywords, ask FAQ questions, request Google My Business information, and read scannable, optimized content. So marketers must learn new strategies for keeping up with these changes.
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  • Voice interactions are more convenient. People often need to use their phone when their hands are full—when cooking, driving, carrying a suitcase, and in many more daily situations. Voice is already playing a significant role in assisting people with limited vision. Most of the time, voice interactions are simply quicker. Consider this: ordering a ticket by saying “Get me plane tickets to London for tomorrow, for two” is much faster than filling out endless forms and perhaps having to fill out a form again after missing something small the first time around. Being able to ask clarification questions makes voice interactions even faster. For example, “Morning or evening?” or “Will you have any luggage?” Plus, voice can be handy in form-filling scenarios, especially for long forms that require users to provide a lot of information, which seems to be a type of form that almost every mobile app requires.
  • Voice technology is multilingual. Whoever your app’s target users are, make sure you speak their language. Internet users across the globe prefer to browse a Web site in their native language. Therefore, if you plan to expand your global presence in your marketplace, creating a multilingual user interface or assistant is the best option available to you. Building a multilingual app directly impacts downloads and usage. In fact, your conversion rates could easily double because a multilingual app helps you reach more people and increases awareness of your brand.
  • Voice lets you reach a broader audience. Using mobile voice search, users can describe objects, items, and the app itself in terms of their specific features. This brings us back to those long-tail keywords. By creating conversational content for these keywords, you have a better chance of reaching your target audience and driving the right traffic to your mobile app.
  • Voice is indispensable for older adults and people with disabilities. Voice makes it possible for all groups of people—especially older adults—to keep up with life’s rhythm. Such people might find it hard to type—or even find technology generally confusing—but voice commands can make using apps much easier. Whether they’re using apps for planning diaries, reminders, information access, or contact with family members, voice assistants can help them with their everyday routines—making sure they stay physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy.

Plus, there are many new avenues that mobile-app developers could explore by adding voice capabilities, such as the following:

  • expanding the boundaries of mobile apps
  • adding functionality
  • using data analysis to improve the user experience
  • promoting your brand
  • achieving significant competitive advantage
  • improving customer satisfaction

How to Integrate Voice into Your Mobile App

To start building voice experiences into your app, you must choose a deployment model, along with a third-party SDK. There are two deployment models available, as follows:

  1. Cloud model—This model is relatively easy to use because all processes live in the cloud, so the voice functionality and data won’t overload a user’s mobile device. However, keep in mind that this model requires a stable Internet connection. If you can’t provide that, you had better use an embedded model.
  2. Embedded model—Users can use these apps in offline mode because the app is on their device. The best thing about this model is that there are no app delays because there is no dependence on a server. On the other hand, this model requires a lot of free space on the user’s mobile device because all audio data is stored locally.

Choose an SDK according to the needs your project addresses. Some of the available options include the following:

  • SAP Conversational AI—This SDK includes the Bot Connector API, which has a standardized messaging format across all channels and lets you connect your bots to any channel in minutes.
  • Google Cloud Text-to-Speech API—This SDK enables developers to synthesize natural-sounding speech using more than 100 voices and is available in 120 languages and variants.
  • Rasa Open Source—Because it is built on Python and has built-in natural-language understanding (NLU), you can use this SDK either as an end-to-end solution or as an NLU server.
  • Aimybox—This is an in-app voice assistant SDK that makes it easy to create a voice assistant and embed it in any application or device, including robots, smart toys, or Raspberry Pi.
  • Aimylogic—This is a platform for natural-language communication for SMBs (small-to-medium businesses). Over 40,000 users have created thousands of skills for voice assistants and chatbots that users can invoke at the touch of a button.
  • JAICF (Just AI Conversational Platform)—This Kotlin-based conversational framework is fully customizable and works with popular voice and text channels such as Amazon Alexa, Google Actions, Slack, Facebook Messenger, and more. This AI framework could be perfect for Android developers, making implementing voice with JAICF as easy as ABC.

As recently as just a couple of years ago, adding voice to a mobile app cost a lot and the process was way too complex. Today, because of the conversational AI market’s growth rate, you can easily find the perfect tool for your project—ranging from simple, no-code builders such as Aimylogic to full-fledged frameworks such as JAICF that are free of charge even for commercial use.

Conclusion

Today, it is imperative that app developers create voice user interfaces that leverage conversational AI for their mobile apps. Creating VUIs can unlock great value for mobile-app developers. Because conversational AI is still a developing market, investing in it could potentially differentiate your mobile app in the marketplace. In this voice-first era, be an organization that brings something new to your mobile apps. 

Thanks to Polina Pirogova of Just AI for providing the hero image for this article.

Tech Evangelist at Just AI

Saint Petersburg, Russia

Anna PristAnna has worked in IT marketing and public relations (PR) since 2013. Working for some major Russian and international companies, Anna has promoted IT solutions and created strong brand positioning for them. At Just AI, Anna has taken on the roles of tech evangelist and creative content writer. Conversational AI is a new, challenging, and very promising business domain. Anna’s goal is to make sure that enterprises, small-to-medium businesses (SMB), and users alike are well informed about how artificial intelligence (AI) can improve their businesses and people’s everyday lives.  Read More

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