Market Spotlight: Voice Functionality to Grow 80 Percent in Five Years

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The number of consumers who engage with voice functionality on a monthly basis will grow to more than 1 billion by 2021, representing an 80 percent compound annual growth rate, according to a report released by ABI Research.

In the report, titled “Transformative Horizon: Voice Recognition and Conversational Interaction,” ABI Research analysts emphasized the need for natural, conversational interaction between humans and their devices, which they say is increasing as people rely on their devices to help them with more daily tasks.

With these devices, voice command and input are at the forefront of new input methods, enabling new user experiences. And while voice recognition and voice search systems are not new, their increased use and capabilities have led to growing interest in a number of consumer applications, the report maintains.

These voice search systems have been getting more advanced, through the addition of conversational recognition patterns and contextual information displays that are making the systems more accessible, useful, and accurate.

“Smartphones are usually the first devices people think of in relation to voice input and recognition,” said Eric Abbruzzese, senior analyst at ABI Research, in a statement. “But growth in smart glasses and smart home devices will fuel this trend going forward.”

Largely due to the same advances in voice recognition and artificial intelligence, another consumer electronics area that is due to see tremendous growth in the next few years is the global entertainment robots market, which research firm Research and Markets forecasts to grow at a compound rate of 20.09 percent per year through 2020. This prediction comes as manufacturers of these products continue to develop humanoid robots with advanced technologies that can better connect to humans. Key drivers of the technology’s growth include voice recognition that allows the robots to understand phrases, sentences, and simple commands, as well as proprietary algorithms that can detect human emotions, enable robots to learn motor tasks through trial and error, closely approximate the way humans learn, respond to preset commands, and learn and adapt to responses as required. Also boosting adoption of these technologies is the fact that the robotic toys can be customized and operated through smartphones, Research and Markets noted.

Beyond the toy robot market, voice control and conversational interaction are natural fits for both smart glasses and augmented reality devices, ABI concluded in its report. Smart home devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home and artificial intelligence–powered personal assistants will also drive consumer use cases, it said.

The ABI report identified Apple, Google, and Microsoft as the main players in this space, with each company pushing its voice platforms heavily. It notes, however, that Amazon, through its growing involvement in the automotive sector and the rapid sales of its voice-supported Echo and Fire devices, could see tremendous growth as well.

In fact, Amazon’s Alexa-enabled consumer devices have been selling so well that the company recently expanded the line to include the Echo Dot and Amazon Tap.

The Amazon Tap is a portable speaker that streams music, and the Echo Dot is a hockey-puck-size device that connects to and controls many smart appliances. These new releases are part of Amazon’s effort to position itself in the smart home market, which allows consumers to control everything from their thermostats to refrigerators.

Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses the same far-field voice recognition as Echo. The device can be connected directly to external speakers with an audio cable or via Bluetooth and add voice control to home stereo systems. Plus, thanks to its small built-in speaker, Echo Dot can be used as a smart alarm clock in the bedroom, or as a voice assistant to control smart home devices and more in any room.

Amazon Tap is an Alexa-enabled portable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speaker that offers full-range sound. Users can tap the microphone button and ask for music, hear the news, search for information, order a pizza, and more.

Other leading vendors in the segment include Epson, IBM, Intel, ­Nuance Communications, NVIDIA, and Samsung.

In fact, both Nuance and Samsung have recently launched their own developer platforms for mobile and consumer devices. Nuance’s platform, called Nuance Mix, enables device makers and developers to create customized voice and natural language interfaces to power the next generation of the Internet of Things (IoT), including smart home, gaming, robotics, and consumer health and fitness systems.

Nuance Mix will continue to expand its set of tools and capabilities throughout 2016 to include more of ­Nuance’s technology and language portfolio. ­Nuance’s voice recognition and text-to-speech tool kits let developers create customized voice interaction for consumer devices and mobile apps in more than 40 languages and choose from more than 80 distinct voices. More than 30,000 developers already participate in the Nuance Developers program.

Likewise, Samsung’s ARTIK platform is an open platform designed to enable development of new applications for the IoT. Speech technology companies that have already joined the ARTIK ecosystem include SoundHound, Sensory, and VoiceBox Technologies.

“We are a strong believer in the IoT revolution, the world of connected devices around us. We also believe that the most compelling and often the only form of communication with these connected devices is using voice and natural language,” said Keyvan Mohajer, founder and CEO of SoundHound, in a statement.

“Conversational interaction is receiving investment as the next frontier for consumer control, beyond search and social,” concluded Sam Rosen, managing director and vice president at ABI Research, in a statement. “Development of artificial intelligence and transactional commerce will enable conversations, such as ordering a pizza or using a virtual travel agent. We expect this to drive the next wave of digital monetization of the service world.” 

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