Last week I was at my desk zoned out on a project and thinking about grabbing some food, so as I would at home, I said: “Ok Google, where is the nearest lunch place?”
I very quickly realized I was not in my living room, there was no Google home and I was talking to myself. This got me thinking, will there one day be a device to answer no matter where I was? 25% of people seem to think so.
In this ever-emerging field of technology and search, voice is the newest trend in tech, however, currently, most users still prefer to search by text on a desktop and the second is mobile devices.
So, if most people still prefer text search, does this mean that voice won’t take off? I would say not.
Historical data of technology inductions will show that we are still in a transition and adjustment phase with voice search. Just as users got used to mobile devices instead of home phones, text messages as the new email, social media as the new word-of-mouth; it is likely that voice search will eventually become the same after some time. In fact, according to comScore, 50% of all searches will be done by voice by 2020 and 30% of searches will be done without even a screen according to Gartner. As voice becomes a part of things we use every day like our cars, phones and even our home it will become the new “norm.”
Who is using voice search?
According to CapTech Consulting, the majority of smart speaker owners are ages 18 to 36, the second is 37-52, and only 15% of the remaining being 53 and older.
Further research from CapTech shows that over 70% of smart speaker owners are married and homeowners and 58% of those who own smart speakers earn more than $75,000 per year. Research also showed that teenagers are more likely to use mobile search, like Siri, than adults and multiple times a day. As of 2017, 13% of all households in the United States owned a smart speaker and that number is predicted to rise to 55% by 2022.
This shows that as we age out of those who do not use voice and continue to evolve into voice search technology, more and more people will become used to using the voice search capabilities making it the new text search of the future.
What are they searching for and when?
No surprise that most smart speakers like the Alexa are used at home while voice search on mobile devices is more likely to be used in the car. Currently, Amazon is releasing a new Alexa product for your car to assist with commands like navigation and voice to text. This can help improve on safety when driving so that people are less likely to text and drive or get distracted by searching for directions on their device.
Searches in the car are more for the obvious searches like “nearest gas station” and calling. Home searches are more for cooking, home improvement questions, weather, music playing, and news.
Here are a few of the top Alexa searches in 2017:
- Ordering products- “Alexa, order more laundry detergent”
- Playing music- “Alexa, play Green Day.”
- Turn on lights- “Alexa, turn on living room lights”
- Ordering food- “Alexa, order a cheese pizza from Dominos.”
- Make a call- “Alexa, call Mom.”
Things are changing rapidly with the advancement of voice search in the home. Appliances like refrigerators, thermostats, and ovens now can connect with smart devices in the home and able to be voice controlled. Who would have thought that we would live in a world where we can talk to our fridge, or even better it can talk back?
Issues with voice search
The appeal of voice search is the fast and seamless experience of getting information quicker than typing in a search. However, as of right now, it is far from a seamless experience.
A study found that when using voice-based search devices, we have expectations of the understanding level as if we are talking to another person. We want searches to be seamless and we expect that our questions are understood on the first try and without having to rephrase it for a machine to understand our slang, accents or even users with speech impediments.
When typing a text search, we can often catch our spelling mistakes or Google will even give suggestions for better search phrases to help you find what you are looking for. However, voice search is not that advanced as of now and will often just say that it does not understand the question or give you the wrong answer to your question. There is a reason that #alexafail is a regular trending hashtag on Twitter.
Hey Alexa, play The Beatles.
Ok, adding Skittles to your shopping list.
The frustrating part of this is that you often need to wait for the voice answer to be done until you can ask again, leaving for a bad user experience and often people will just give up and use their mobile search instead.
Where are we going?
While voice search isn’t perfected as of now, updates and advancements in voice recognition could get voice search based smart devices to a point where it is a better user experience than it is now and begin to be used more often. Overall, the most likely outcome for the future of voice is a healthy mixture of both, possibly leaning more towards voice search. It will require the benefits to outweigh the cons and voice search technology is definitely heading in that direction. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for search.