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Voice Assistants have been hovering in the background for some time now, but 2019 will be the year we see unprecedented leaps forward in their intelligence and functionality.
They have been building up our trust gradually – Alexa wants you to set timers and ask for jokes and Google wants you to just speak your search queries. We now feel comfortable streaming our thoughts and wishes to the Cloud. The data collected is immense, and in the Cloud, it’s churned through custom-built machine learning hardware. Both of these things have brought about the conditions for truly smart machines, but the tipping point has come from something else.
In the past few years, all the companies who build those Voice Assistants have opened up their AI and Cloud services on a pay-as-you-go system for anyone to use. A teenager on free coffee shop Wi-Fi can now build a large-scale sophisticated AI system that would have been unthinkable even for a big corporation a few years ago. Learnings from the fresh new ideas and use-cases that others find for their AI is the missing piece that was needed to accelerate the intelligence of their own systems. The collective power of that new and diverse data is accelerating improvements to the algorithms that power Voice Assistants at an accelerated pace.
This year we’re going to see Voice Assistants smart enough to really ‘get’ us. They’re already providing assistance with simple tasks – a friendly voice helping walk you through a recipe or pick out a playlist you’ll like. In 2019, there will be a lot more Augmented Intelligence used. They will be able to capture those inspirational thoughts as you have them in the shower, and once you get to work, they’ll help you add them onto a meeting agenda. They will remind us as we drive home that we should stop for milk because the fridge has noted we’re all out. They can help us organize our day – or the trip of a lifetime – with a simple conversation as we cook dinner.
In 2019, we will also see tentative progress towards the final step, allowing them to be agentive – taking actions on our behalf. We will let them reorder things we need without asking or set up an appointment on our behalf. After all, Google Duplex has already shown us that this is possible. Your Voice Assistant will be the thing that connects all the data from your devices. Once they have shown they are smart enough to be trusted with the little things, we will find ourselves entrusting them with more and more of our lives.
Like the smartphone, soon not using a Voice Assistant will make you seem very quaint. In 2019, expect to see a lot more of Google Assistant and Alexa. They are going to be popping up in unexpected places – and they are going to be smarter than ever.