No wonder, that right now, a time in which the interaction between people and technology has become an essential part of our everyday lives, the question of voice based communication with machines is once again on the agenda.
The first attempt to develop voice based interactions had already begun in the 1950s. However, the breakthrough came only a few years ago with the emergence of Big Data and advancements in artificial intelligence. Today, Siri and Alexa are names that are inseparably linked to the voices of Apple and Amazon. Many other virtual assistants are currently finding their way into the products of a wide variety of sectors.
Interaction by means of spoken language offers great advantages for some applications. In contrast to the standardgraphical interfaces, voice user interfaces (VUI) are described as natural and intuitive and offer greater accessibility, as they do not require the use of hands or other gestures. Studies show that this trend will continue to increase. According to Gartner, by 2020 50% of analytical queries will be made or automatically generated via Natural Language Processing (NLP) or spoken language.
But what does this trend mean for the UX community? If, in the future, we are increasingly confronted with multimodal interfaces, and interact less with purely graphic surfaces, must we completely rethink our way of working?
One thing is certain: in the long run technologisation of such products will not be successful without UX. We have to adapt our existing methods to these new interaction modes – whether voice or gesture based.
Particularly when dealing with voice user interfaces, focus is placed on the presentation and structure of information: How can the user be guided through a workflow if there is no longer a visual menu structure? Even without a graphical user interface the system must continue to provide feedback, so that the user is always informed about the status of their interaction. Another important question is how people want to talk to technology or be addressed by it.
Depending on the use scenario, all of these aspects have to be considered in a nuanced way. It must remain our common goal to ensure that, in the future, human-centred technologisation will create user confidence through transparency – and for this we need UX, especially now.
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