What role will voice recognition play in business enterprise?
How soon will consumers be using voice commands in retail purchases outside of their homes? Given the rapid growth of smart speakers in the U.S., it stands to reason that the technology eventually will find its way into retail commerce and other business sectors.
The global smart speaker market was valued at $2.38 billion in 2016 and is projected to register compound annual growth rate of 18 percent from 2018 to 2026, according to a new report published by Transparency Market Research.
|Laura Marx of Polycom fields a question on voice technology. To her right is Victor Nemirovsky of iRule. To her left are Jordan Owens of Pexip, Cynthia Lee of Zoom andCatelyn Orsini of Plantronics.|
"People now want to interface that way," David Danto, principal consultant at Dimension Data, said as he introduced a panel on voice recognition during the Infocomm show at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
"This is now the consumer's preferred experience, Danto said. "When will this be secure enough for enterprise use?"
No member of the Infocomm panel could offer a clear indication as to how soon voice recognition technology will make major inroads in business enterprise. All of the panelists agreed that reliable voice authentication remains a challenge for voice recognition technology, as does the need for the technology to interface with business enterprise workflows.
While the Infocomm discussion focused mostly on the use of voice recognition in meetings, the technology has already made some inroads in retail commerce, along with other biometric technologies that include facial and fingerprint recognition.
Voice makes inroads at retail
Kiosk Marketplace reported last year on Umajin, a virtual assistant for hotel guests. The software integrates with hotel lobby kiosks, allowing guests to ask questions and make recommendations about hotel services.
Additionally, Domino's Pizza President and CEO Patrick Doyle told CNBC last year that orders through the company's mobile voice ordering have been growing.
Amazon Alexa, one of the leading voice services, recently released an API for retail applications.
The Infocomm panelists also highlighted Cisco's recent introduction of Webex Cloud for online conferencing as a positive development for its ability to protect the privacy of information shared during conferences.
More development needed
The panelists agreed, though, that a great deal of development is needed before voice services can be used widely in business applications.
Panelist Victor Nemirovsky, CEO of the iRule division of Kramer Electronics, a commercial A-V solutions provider, said that Amazon Alexa is only useful for limited functions in the home
Jordon Owens, vice president of architecture at Pexip, provider of videoconferencing and collaboration platforms, agreed. "I don't think we're close," he said, citing the lack of voice authentication capabilities in existing tools. Owens said that even in his own home, neither Alexa nor Siri works reliably.
Owens said he expects that some other technology, such as eye recognition, will be able to authenticate the user more reliably than voice recognition.
The panelists also agreed on the need for voice recognition to integrate with workflows at the enterprise level.
Danto said that voice technology could expand in conjunction with other technologies, such as embedded cameras that can identify who is speaking in a meeting.
Nemirovsky suggested that technology companies should work to integrate voice recognition with facial recognition. Persons who are uncomfortable speaking should have the option not to, he said.
Owens said that integrating voice recognition with other technologies remains a challenge. But he acknowledged that voice does help to humanize technology.
"We still need to humanize the interaction with nonhuman things so that it's more comfortable," he said.
What about ADA?
Owens raised the question of voice recognition in relation to the Americans with Disabilities Act. He is not the first technology expert to point out that voice recognition will not meet the needs of people with speech impediments. Other measures will be also needed to meet the needs of the hearing impaired.
Danto pointed out that voice recognition could be a solution for the visually impaired.
Panelist Cynthia Lee, product manager at Zoom Video Communications, a provider of enterprise video communications, said voice recognition can improve productivity in certain situations, but is not a cure-all.
Panelist Laura Marx, vice president of global alliance and partner marketing at Polycom, a video conferencing provider, said that voice recognition is part of the evolving technology landscape.
The panelists agreed that while voice systems will gain use, they will not displace touchscreens. The future, most agreed, will see the combination of various technologies in individual solutions.
"It's not all voice, it's not all touch panel — it's multimodal," said panelist Catelyn Orsini, research and development technical manager at Plantronics, a producer of audio communications equipment for business and consumers.