Did Google Duplex just make voice AI practical?
Earlier this week, Google announced Duplex; a voice-integrated AI that will, for the first time, make Voice Assistants practical for millions of users and businesses around the globe. It pushes consumer Artificial Intelligence forward from an experience that's restricted to specific actions and responses, into one that allows the AI to take its own initiative and truly provide value to its users.
Essentially Duplex is a function of Google's Assistant that will allow users to make more complex requests, to which the Assistant will now be able to fulfil. The main use case for this is the ability to ask Google to "Book a haircut for next Wednesday' and the assistant will take the initiative to call the business to make the reservation on your behalf.
And the best part (or the creepiest) is that it doesn't even sound like a robot!
It marks a significant 'coming of age' in Voice Experience technology. Duplex could quite possibly be the breakthrough that places Artificial Intelligence practically in the hands of billions of users worldwide. And if you had any doubt that Voice AI was a 'fad', this should well and truly burst that bubble.
In the next 18-months, Gartner predicts 50% of global web searches will be conducted by a users voice. That's asking Siri 'What's a good cafe in South Yarra?', Alexa 'Can you book me a flight to Sydney?' and your Google Assistant 'When does my local Thai restaurant close?' By the end of this year - Voice Speakers (that is either a Google Home or Amazon Alexa device) are predicted to be in 40% of homes in the UK, whilst 55% of American adults are expected to own one by 2022. Australia isn't far behind either with 57% of the population currently 'considering' the purchase of a device, according to Salmat.
Voice AI isn't just for your tech-savvy friend, but now for your Grandma as well.
So what does this (gigantic) disruption mean for Australian businesses?
It sounds a fog horn that it's time to get ready for voice. Over the past six months, we've been working with some of our partners to understand the nuances and opportunities that are on offer for brands who tap into this new technology. Businesses now need to be prepared to consider what their customer journey looks beyond when a customer first walks in the door or visits your website, but from when they first ask their Google Home where, when and how they can acquire your product, treating it as a new touchpoint.
Rapidly we expect this technology to further raise consumer expectations with regards to Customer Service. Swift responses to the most straightforward errors or most complex complaints will be at the forefront of what consumers expect from businesses. However, this also allows significant opportunities for further cost savings, and if done well, increases in consumer satisfaction.
It also opens new sales channels, especially in retail, hospitality and entertainment. Users will (and already do in the United States) ask their assistant to get the local cafe to make their daily soy latte to be collected, have their groceries delivered to their door or buy an item of clothing they just saw advertised on TV.
Just as Television, the internet and social media have all disrupted how customer interact with brands over the past century, don't be surprised when Voice Assistants and Artificial Intelligence do the same.