Alexa, Can You Hear Me?

Voice is the New Operating System

We have been mutely working in front of our computers for the past 30 years, completely shutting down our speaking abilities. If you walk anywhere, you’ll see hundreds of people frantically finger typing on their smartphones instead of speaking. It’s almost as if we’ve dismissed the ability to talk.

Contrast that with the smart speakers and voice assistants on offer from every major tech company:  Alexa, Siri, OK Google, Bixby – that are quickly surrounding us. Speaker and speech recognition are injected into almost every new gadget and smartphone.

At this point in the technology’s development, the advanced AI algorithms are still trying to understand us. We’ve all seen the videos where someone is trying to talk to Siri, and she responds with something that is completely off base but sounded enough like what we were asking for it to be a credible mistake.

Soon, though, she will understand what we’re saying, as will most of our home. You’ve just arrived home with your arms full of groceries. Instead of having to put everything down to find your keys, you simply say, “Open the door.” The lock will recognize your voice and know it’s you.

AI’s ability will soon go beyond voice recognition. In a short time, it will “learn” from every conversation we have and will be able to identify our mood and health level just from listening to us talk. Based on the sharp tone you used to ask that door lock to open, your home will start playing calming music to lower your stress levels. If your voice consistently shows ongoing high rates of stress, the system may trigger remote heart rate monitoring to ensure that your health is not compromised – and notify emergency services if that compromise is occurring NOW!

Study after study has shown that seniors who remain in their own homes have better health than those living in nursing homes. However, loneliness caused by their isolation can mitigate that advantage. That’s where self-learning, voice-focused AI will really shine. Instead of having to play the radio or television constantly to hear voices, seniors will have a different option. Their home assistants will be able to start conversations. By paying attention to what media the senior is consuming, her smart assistant can start a conversation, inquiring what she thinks may happen in the next episode of her favorite program. The smart AI behind the scenes may also reference her schedule for the previous few weeks. The voice will gently remind her that she hasn’t seen her friend Carol in a few weeks and suggest that she call.

Intelligent voice recognition can also increase the levels of a property’s security. After a few weeks, the home or office can recognize all the voices of the people who are supposed to be there every day. When an unknown voice suddenly appears, the system can quickly analyze the person’s voice tone and even his heart rate to see if his intentions are friendly – the new plumber – or disruptive – a thief.

In case you are worried about the cacophony of everyone giving their devices directions simultaneously, many companies are already working on noise-canceling technology that will keep our interactions at manageable levels for all of us.

Children drop things from their high chairs to learn about gravity and learn about how adults act. Voice recognition technology is still in the learning stage. Once it grows up, though, it will make a real difference in our lives.

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