Virtual Digital Assistant Market to Quadruple in Five Years

By 2020, virtual digital assistants will penetrate more than 3.3 billion consumer devices, including smartphones, tablets, smart watches, PCs, smart home devices, and automobiles, up from 821 million in 2014, according to a report released late last week by research firm Tractica. The market intelligence firm forecasts that annual enterprise VDA system shipments will also more than triple during the same period.

"Virtual digital assistants represent the fusion of speech recognition, natural language processing (NLP), and artificial intelligence (AI) and hold the potential to have a transformative impact on consumer and enterprise user interfaces," said Tractica principal analyst Peter Cooney in a statement. "The market is at a stage where the underlying technology is capable of delivering a very robust solution, but there are advancements still to be made across the board to improve digital assistants and drive further market growth and customer acceptance."

By Tractica's definition, virtual digital assistants can come in many forms, from relatively basic text-based assistants to full-fledged, multimodal digital assistants. They are designed to assist human users through understanding natural language in written or spoken form. The assistance can be delivered in many ways, from enabling self-service through a back-end database of frequently asked questions in a search tool as found on many corporate Web sites, to a conversational speech-based interaction to facilitate scheduling, calling, dictation for emails, or text messages as found on many smartphones today using familiar names like Cortana, Google Now, or Siri.

Cooney adds that notable areas for improvement include lower power processing, advances in natural language processing, seamless handover, and consumer education.

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