There once was a time when using your voice to control your computer was the stuff of science fiction, but slow evolution has turned into an explosion of innovation as devices like Alexa have introduced voice control to a new user base.
For the world at large, it might seem like voice control is a new innovation, but in reality, it has actually been around for decades. The latest advancements are just the tip of the iceberg, what most people see even though their top products are built on a massive buildup that has taken place out of the sight of the public.
Computer science has long been interested in allowing people to control their computers in the most intuitive ways possible and few interfaces are more intuitive than voice control. But controlling a computer with your voice is a much bigger request then it might seem at first, computers are not designed to understand speech the same way that humans are after millions of years of evolution.
Still, decades of incremental changes have gotten us to the point where Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all feel like they can integrate voice control into their flagship products. Amazon’s Alexa is a leading product, driven by Amazon’s desire to make it easier for people to purchase products using their electronic devices.
Amazon’s business model is built around making shopping as simple and intuitive as possible. The fewer barriers there are between people and their purchases the more money they will spend. The Amazon website is a testament to this, and most users will admit that the site has inspired them to spend more than they might have on competitors. With Alexa users don’t even need to touch a computer to make a purchase.
Even as proponents of speech recognition salivate over the potential of the technology they also caution against overreach. The general market is built of people who want to talk to their technology the same way that they talk to the people around them.
Even though Alexa may be better equipped for this than ever before it is still a long ways from completely satisfying the masses. Companies like Amazon need to manage expectations to avoid frustrating their customers and driving them away from a technology that is still growing by leaps and bounds every year.
Decades ago the television show predicted that in the far future people wouldn’t need keyboards to give commands to their computers, all they would need is their voice. While the keyboard is unlikely to ever completely disappear it does look like consumers will be able to accomplish all their most basic tasks using their voice and their voice alone.