What we’re dealing with is the technology of conversation - Harvey Sacks
Voice user interfaces (VUI) are applications where the main form of interaction is speech. They allow users to interact with software by speaking to them.
The language the user can utilize is way more natural than typing on chat applications and the conversations are mostly engineered to simulate the way we would interact with another person. When done right, they can eliminate the use of keypads, buttons or graphic interfaces and reduce user frustration.
VUIs also help make your products more accessible to those faced with the significant barriers that graphic interfaces inevitably impose on those with disabilities, both individual and situational. Interacting with software using voice is a way of making sure your product is accessible to those in situations where hands and eyes might be preoccupied.
The use of speech is then the best solution for what Dario D. Salvucci calls secondary-task interfaces in his paper on Predicting the effects of in-car interface use on driver performance: an integrated model approach, those that are for support on a primary more critical task like driving, where the safety can be compromised when the other senses are involved if you’re checking your phone for example to get the weather.
In the past year, 2022, we have seen that 71% of users prefer using voice for search queries instead of graphic interfaces, nearly 1 out of 3 US consumers own at least one smart device and more than half of all owners use their device on a daily basis. The most well known VUIs include Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. For smart devices, we have Amazon Echo, a newly released Apple HomePod and Google Home.
The future for VUIs
This overwhelming popularity of voice interfaces makes us evaluate the impact of assistants on human - machine interactions. When users are faced with the option of a chat or voice assistant to get support, more than half choose the latter. This is because of natural language understanding (NLU), and natural language processing (NLP) the user can communicate their frustration or doubts effectively using their voice rather than pre-conceived options on a screen.
Users are now actively choosing to speak with the machine, and with the increase of AI assistants and VUI devices, we’ll soon discover even more usages and ways to apply Voice Interfaces to our applications and web pages and the undeniable effects these interactions will have on business-customer machine-user relationships.
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