Personal computing has advanced lightning fast for more than three decades and we’ve grown accustomed to the speed. Every year, devices are quicker, tools are smarter, and software is more responsive to our needs. But we sit at an interesting cross-section in that development as emerging technologies powered by AI show us a vision of the future. Even in a crude and sometimes glitchy state no technology is more representative of this than the voice user interface. There is a relationship between graphical and voice user interfaces.
Launched to the mass market in 2011 with the iOS 5 update, Siri, followed by Alexa, Cortana, and Google have upended how we think about our interactions with computers. Despite such a raw and at times inaccurate interface, people have been enamored with voice for close to a decade and only now is it starting to approach what we have always expected of it.
In order to help users fully adopt the Voice Use Interface (VUI) over the next couple of years, there is a gap to be bridged. The gap is what leads us to the opportunity to interact with the graphical user interface. VUI is still an important supplemental part of the user experience.
The Magic of the Voice User Interface.
VUI is so satisfying that, even in an incomplete state that requires us to repeat our questions or listen to long answers to things we didn’t ask — we remain enamored. Natural language is the first interface humans have with the world and has been for millennia. We are hardwired to not just appreciate it, but marvel at it. A few simple sounds can have a profound impact on the world around you.
It’s not surprising that our science fiction and pop culture started depicting voice user interfaces decades ago. The ability to not just have a device that can access every kernel of human knowledge in a few seconds, but to be able to talk to it. That was the dream. And now we’re almost there. Even though voice assistants still misunderstand you sometimes, when they do work, it’s magical, and we tolerate their mistakes.
The Role of the Graphical User Interface in a New Age of Wonder.
(A significant percentage of the population grew up with graphical user interfaces. Since the first personal computers hit the market in the 1980’s we’ve been clicking, dragging, and otherwise interacting with visual representations of data on our screens. Today, more than 150 million Americans have a smartphone – a computer in their pocket.)
In the 40 years that Graphical User Interface (GUI’s) have been around, we’ve come to trust them. We know that the underlying code is correctly represented and that the underlying data are accurately displayed. Even though they may soon not be the priority method of retrieving data or interacting with your digital surroundings, until the same level of trust is reached with VUI’s, graphical user interfaces will remain an important fail-safe.
Just look at the data. More than 70% of smart speaker users use them every single day and even more people have increased usage year over year, with tens of millions of devices sold year over year. comScore recently released a report saying that 50% of all search will be via voice user interface by 2020 – that’s just a year from now. People want to search by voice – the technology just needs to catch up.
Companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft are pouring billions of dollars into R&D and trying to capture as big a piece of the pie as possible. This is the frontier of personal computing, and graphic user interfaces are the wagons getting us there.
The Future of the Voice User Interface.
Juniper predicts that ad revenue on voice assistants and software platforms will reach $19 billion by 2022. Considering that key platforms like Echo still don’t monetize with advertising outside of Amazon store purchases, this represents a booming market with tremendous potential.
Peter Cahill, CEO of Voysis predicts that this growth combined with the desire of users to use voice search and the make or break nature of mobile GUI will mean every application on your smartphone will integrate voice in some capacity in the next five years.
Humans have faith that the future of technology will always be better than it is now.. More personalized responses, the ability to evaluate and respond to the context of a query, and an increasingly individualized experience in VUI will help mobile devices become more user-friendly and reduce the risk of a major disconnect between GUI and VUI.
Why GUI and VUI Must Work Together.
While more than 50 million US homes have a smart speaker right now. Juniper (report above) estimates that number could grow to as much as 70 million households by 2022. This statistic is not accounting for the integration of VUI in the other devices we use every day. Think: our appliances, IoT electronics, cars, and even our homes.
The path to a ubiquitous, highly integrated voice ecosystem is shortening, but until we get there GUI must bear the responsibility of being the adult in the room. By providing the seamless user experience more people not only desire but expect from their personal devices.