2018 Voice Assistant Predictions from 20 Innovators


Voicebot reached out to 20 innovators working with voice assistant and AI technologies to get their predictions for 2018. The predictions range from killer apps and voice ID proliferation to consumer adoption and unartificial intelligence. Let us know which you think are the most intriguing on Twitter @voicebotai and @bretkinsella.

Adelyn Zhou, CMO Topbots

In 2018, AI enabled voice will become even more ubiquitous for both consumers and businesses. It will be normal to see people talking to an AI assistant such as Siri or Google Assistant on the streets. In the office, smart systems will move from simple office management of temperature and conference room bookings to more intelligently taking meeting notes and aiding worker productivity. More white collar workers will also start dictating speech to text as the technology improves.

Derrick Fountain, Head of Product and R&D TRT World

Voice ID and autonomous interface design will emerge from the shadows with the rise of ‘dark interactions’ in 2018. Taking inputs from device sensors and physical movements in the real-world will give rise to unartificial intelligence, where interfaces respond in real-time directly to what it actually knows about a user’s current physical environment and context. Smart devices will adapt interfaces to me entering and exiting buildings, driving or walking, or gesturing and bringing a screen in or out of focus.

Pat Higbie, CEO XAPPmedia

In 2018, direct to consumer content distribution will accelerate as media and entertainment outlets realize voice gives consumers the ability to connect directly and more conveniently with the content they want. Also, voice search will emerge as the most convenient way for consumers to get the things they need and want, and brands will realize that a voice presence and a high voice search ranking are essential to their survival. Finally, voice assistant usage will proliferate on mobile and in the car as consumers crave the convenience and use the habits they’re forming on smart speakers in the home.

Oren Jacob, CEO Pullstring

I think the first, new (i.e.: not Jeopardy or already known IP), voice based games will go big in 2018 on Alexa. And, I think we’ll see some substantial advances in more freeform conversational in lines with the work being done on the Alexa Prize Winners announced at re:Invent.

Katie McMahon, VP &GM SoundHound / Houndify

Fortune 100 companies that go all-in on a voice AI strategy will become stronger and positioned for growth. Moving toward a voice strategy whereby they can own the experience, their own data, customize for their brand experience, and deploy best-in-class technology, will be an imperative for survival for some. The next-level of user delight will emerge across multiple product categories. Being able to speak naturally, follow-on, and have the voice assistant ‘understand’ context and queries that are compound and complex… that will be the ‘wow’ moment for the user. The hottest field of Design will become Voice Interface User Experience design.

John Kelvie, CEO Bespoken

2018 is the year that we shift from seeing the mobile market as the ceiling of what voice could be, and instead see it as the floor. Between cars, TVs, home appliances, small embedded devices, enterprise telecom, etc., the opportunities for voice enablement are everywhere. Fundamentally, making devices “dumb” voice portals is going to enable an explosion of access points that, over time, will make smart phone numbers seem quaint. And that’s not even counting “voice-compatible” IoT devices, enabled via offerings such as the Alexa Gadgets SDK. The announcements at the Consumer Electronic Show in January will provide strong evidence of this prediction being borne out.

2018 is also the year that people will get serious about voice monitoring and testing of voice applications. Up until now, mostly an after-thought, monitoring will be front and center as companies move from experimentation to conducting real business, whether it be with consumers or enterprise users, games or life-saving healthcare apps

Todd Mozer, CEO Sensory

Speaker verification and ID will become a more useful part of the voice assistant experience with more functionality, customization, and security built around known individuals. There will also be clear moves to integrate voice and vision. More cameras will appear on more assistant boxes and the trend will emerge to start using vision and speech in combination to better identify information. Finally, there will be more partnerships with Assistant providers. There are too many speakers with too many assistants that will be coming to market across the world. They can’t all peacefully coexist in the long term so we will see more partnerships (like the Alexa/Cortana) emerge including cross border partnerships with US and China.

Andrew Howlett, co-founder and chief digital officer RAIN

By the end of 2018, hardware devices that support multiple voice platforms will begin to take significant market share. Consumers will be able to use Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana all on the same hardware, choosing to interact with the assistant that best serves their needs at that time. While the last couple of years have been all about the platforms understanding WHAT we are saying, 2018 will begin to deliver the WHY and the WHERE. Contextual understanding is the important and necessary next step for voice to become an integral part of consumers lives.

Peter Cahill, CEO Voysis

I think we’ll see the technologies behind WaveNet start to manifest in ASR and Dialogue. ASR and Dialogue didn’t improve much in the past 2 years, it was very much iterations on existing tech and better data that resulted in improvements (for all leading/state of the art companies). The recent developments in WaveNet will be more game changing. Aside from that I expect that Google’s tech lead over Amazon and others can only increase. It’s lining up to be a very interesting year!

Adam Marchick, CEO VoiceLabs

Gaming will emerge as a compelling Voice+Visual vertical in 2018. A company to watch is Volley. The Gaming category will show engagement growth, and in collaboration with Amazon and Google some monetization maturity (i.e. developers can feed themselves off the revenue).

Jess Williams, CEO Lifebot

I think Google will become even better at matching natural user requests with actions. So, right now a user can shortcut to an action. For example, if I enable the action Easy Chef, I can tell Google that if I say, “I’m hungry” it means I want to open the Easy Chef action. Right now the user does that manually. But, I think Google will start to do it programmatically, and so maybe the concept of “actions” for end users will disappear. The concept of actions could evolve to just mean something for developers and brands as “build back-end service for Google Assistant.”

Bob Stolzberg, Chief Innovation Officer VoiceXP

Monitoring and analytics will get pushed out or bought by bigger enterprise APM companies like Dynatrace or New Relic. Hint, hint. You might want to look at Dynatrace’s upcoming Alexa skill monitoring & APM. Some other companies will get gobbled by conglomerates who like to do it all internal. Don’t be surprised if MacDonald’s or an insurance company buys some of the voice companies. You’ll also see more accelerators doing voice stuff. New funds. Matches for leading rounds.

Hicham Tahiri, CEO Smartly.ai

The Voice Rush – Brands finally understands that they have to be present on each popular voice platform simply because their customers are expecting them to do so.

Privacy issues in Europe – The GDPR will give headaches to the voice giants because it requires European based servers and explicit approval before recording user voice. New alternatives such embedded or decentralized peer-to-peer personal assistants will pop-up to address the current and legitimate privacy concerns of voice assistants. Vocal Adwords – Brands will have to pay to be featured on voice requests such as “I need to rent a car” or “find me a hotel room.” Although Assistant is already paving the way with the launch of “implicit invocations” and Google’s expertise on monetizing search. Amazon and Cortana, both based on Bing for the search engine, will quickly follow.

Matt Hartman, Partner at Betaworks

2018 will be the year that early winners start to take all. A lot of really good content has started to get discovered. That will draw other content that’s not quite as high quality into the market, which will make discovery even harder, giving and advantage to the content and services that already have a user base on which to grow. 2018 will also be the year regular people join the geeks. They’ll start to use audio services that are built around discovery of new content. Early examples of this are Anchor and Breaker, where people interested in voice and audio are already hanging out.

Tobias Goebel, Senior Director Aspect Software

When it comes to voice technology, we’re only seeing the beginning in terms of how it embeds in consumer’s lives. I expect some innovative uses of voice assistants, based in parts on dedicated hardware, specifically in the hotel industry, where text-based chatbots are already adding value and improving the traveler’s experience. I know of at least 2 who are working on their own hardware; 1 hotel chain, and 1 systems integrator who wants to sell to hotels.

When it comes to using conversational assistants in general, 2018 will bring an increased number of rollouts of chatbots for enterprise customer service, as budgets have formed in 2017. The Contact Center usually comes second or third for an enterprise, after Marketing has embraced an emerging consumer-facing technology, and sometimes after internal use cases have been explored, e.g. for HR or IT.

Ahmed Bouzid, CEO Witlingo

Samsung will emerge as a non-trivial challenge to Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service strategy as it voice enables its next generation of electronic products. Amazon will re-launch the Fire Phone as it realizes that Google’s surface footprint is enabling Google to deliver deep Voice-First experiences in a way that Amazon cannot today without a smartphone presence.  With Voice ID and the ability to tie a speaker to reams of detailed data about the user’s day obtained from their interactions with their Android based mobile device, Google is able to tap into a wide and deep context about users that Amazon cannot today.

Brian Roemmele, Editor Multiplex

2018 will continue with Voice-First being the fastest growing mass technology in history. The holiday season of 2017 increased the base of users by orders of magnitude. This will bring about some of the first signs of the “killer apps” that will galvanize daily and repeated use of Voice-First platforms. These “killer apps” will create a viral effect to draw more users to the platforms. Some of these apps will allow a text entry but will be far more useful with a simple voice interaction. It is nearly 100% certain these “killer apps” will be developed by independent developers and likely never known of before 2018.

Udhay Parerikkal, CEO DecibelApps

Voice technology will grow exponentially in business (like Alexa for business). Many businesses will start their journey in 2018.

Robert Weideman, EVP and GM, Enterprise, Nuance Communications

Your voice will be your password. 2017 was a record year for hacks of personal customer details. These breaches give fraudsters access to our identities including the answers to those annoying security questions. One thing the fraudsters can’t do much with? Voice data. And that is why banks and telcos are increasingly replacing security questions with biometrics. With a few words of speech, voice biometrics can confirm you are who you say you are at accuracy and security levels better than pins, passwords and security questions. And it knows how to detect recordings from real, live speech – rendering the data useless to fraudsters in the case of a breach.

Alec Lazarescu, NYC Bots and AI Meetup Organizer

A mass market viral voice app finally launches in 2018. Good odds are that it will be some sort of shared social experience like HQ. Though it will draw lots of attention and trail blaze, it won’t monetize by the end of 2018.

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