Posted by Kristen Jason and Alison Arthur on 28 May 2020
Our voices are becoming more powerful than ever. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP), and smart home devices, our voices can control everything from turning up our thermostats to selecting our favorite television shows.
It wasn’t so long ago that intelligent personal assistants that respond to voice commands were considered cutting edge, but they’re now becoming more commonplace in our daily lives. ABI Research estimates that 2020 will see a 30% growth in voice control shipments for smart home devices. Astoundingly, Juniper Research estimates 4.2 billion devices in use this year, and projects that will grow to 8.4 in 2024.
The pandemic has given voice assistant technology another level of importance and has opened up new avenues for its use. For example, Mayo Clinic is using Amazon Alexa to assess their symptoms and access information on COVID-19. Amazon has imparted the ability to answer tens of thousands of questions related to the virus. Alexa’s Mayo Clinic First-Aid skill offers self-guidance.
As the technology that powers intelligent personal assistants continues to be refined, there are new applications for it being born daily. Here are three innovative uses of voice commands via smart home devices that help automate everyday tasks.
1. Voice shopping
At a time where people are shopping from home more than ever, voice shopping has proven to be a huge convenience. Amazon built a voice shopping experience that makes reordering and buying new products via Alexa easier than ever. Using a simple command like, “Alexa, order paper towels”, gives shoppers the ability to either reorder items from their order history or have Alexa find new items to buy. The final price is always provided before order confirmation. And if the user doesn’t have an Alexa home device, they can access voice shopping via the Amazon mobile app.
Google offers a similar experience through Google Express, in which Google Assistant responds to voice commands via Google Home devices. There is free shipping for orders above the store minimum, and Walmart and Target both offer products via Google Express, meaning there is a large assortment of products to choose from. As with Alexa, a Google Home device is activated using a voice command like, “Hey Google, order paper towels”, and different options are given along with their total prices including tax. Once a product is confirmed by the user, the order is placed. Google is now piloting voice matching to secure Google Assistance purchases. Using your voice has the potential to be more seamless than responding to a fingerprint or face unlock prompt.
2. Voice donations
Amazon offers a relatively new Alexa skill that lets users make charitable donations using voice commands. Users can either direct a donation to a specific charity that’s on the platform or say, “Alexa, make a donation,” and Alexa can suggest a charity. More than 330 nonprofits have registered to accept donations via Alexa, (the list of charities is available here) and it continues to grow, making supporting charitable organizations easier than ever.
3. Voice bill payments
While voice commands can facilitate common tasks around your home, it can also facilitate the transactions that keep your home running (think mortgage, utilities, insurance, and auto finance payments). Intelligent personal assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can also facilitate bill payment tasks like inquiring about account balances, checking due dates, and making voice-enabled payments. By automating these important transactions, intelligent personal assistants can help users keep their finances on track and facilitate on-time bill payments.
The Bottom Line: Voice technology is facilitating everyday tasks like never before. One day medical robots may be able to take over for nurses and doctors with some tasks with voice interaction. For now, in addition to checking the weather, playing music, and setting reminders, it can also automate transactions that keep households running smoothly – like making on-time bill payments.
*This is an update on an original post published April 24th, 2019