What will be the voice-technology winner of tomorrow—voice-first or multimodal user interfaces? Those working in the voice user-experience sector are avidly discussing this hot topic—and UX researchers, UX designers, developers, marketers, and entrepreneurs may find it of interest as well.
In this article, I’ll define the terms voice first and multimodal, using current products as examples, explore some use cases and rationales for different types of user interfaces, consider contemporary research, and conceptualize the future of voice user interfaces. Should you keep your product’s visual features? Yes, because, ultimately, voice-enabled, multimodal user interfaces will be the preferred user experience. Read More
According to Cisco’s report “Customer Experience in 2020,” the average person could have more conversations with bots than with people next year. This is just one of a growing number of studies suggesting that retailers are finally grasping the significance of automated customer-service platforms and are ready to unleash them on the world.
For years, the hype around chatbots as a potentially revolutionary means of customer engagement has largely outpaced technological advances. Until recently, consumer experiences with artificial intelligence–powered assistants have been frustrating, hilariously ineffective, or maybe somewhere in between. Almost everyone has experienced the sort of automated engagements that seem to end as soon as they begin: email messages from no-reply senders, text messages from numbers you can’t text back, or promising automated Web chats that quickly lead you to a generic FAQ page. Read More
Ask Siri to self-identify, and you’ll get an existential, but noncommittal answer. For most consumers’ ears, however, Siri—Norse for “beautiful woman who leads you to victory”—has a decidedly feminine voice. Siri isn’t alone in the sorority of feminine digital assistants. She joins a lineage that started in 1952 with Bell Labs’ Audrey, who could recognize spoken numbers. Since then, technology companies have produced an array of female digital assistants, including Viv, Alexa, Cortana, and Ooma.
More recently, a couple of male voices have joined the chorus, including Google Assistant’s Voice II and Samsung’s Bixby. But Bixby was lambasted on the Internet as sexist, and Voice II’s very name implies that it is a token feature. Even Siri now has a male-voice alternative, but the name and default setting say it all.
After more than six decades of voice assistants, it’s time to ask an uncomfortable question: Why do we—Americans, anyway—prefer female voices for our digital assistants? Read More