Oracle Adds Voice Assistant to Enterprise Apps

Oracle has debuted a new voice assistant as part of its suite of business applications at its OpenWorld event this week. The Oracle Digital Assistant can now understand and respond to spoken language as well as text, especially business vocabulary.

Giving Voice to a Digital Assistant

Oracle released its Digital Assistant last year as a way for customers to interact with its sales, marketing, and other software in a more intuitive way. The AI uses natural language processing and to learn and understand what users intend, and is aimed at streamlining tasks like meeting planning, customer service, and administrative paperwork. Until now, the Digital Assistant was accessible only by text on an app or embedded within a website or communication platform like Slack. Now, the digital assistant can perform all of the same tasks, without requiring any typing. The voice assistant can respond either by voice or just in text form, useful depending on the discussion and volume of the office around the user.

Although the Digital Assistant has previously offered connections to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri voice assistants, there are benefits to Oracle of building a new one. One major advantage of a specialized voice assistant is that the vocabulary can be adjusted for business language and expressions specific to a company. Oracles’ voice assistant can understand acronyms and terms used in enterprise tasks that are not commonly used by the average consumer. The voice assistant will learn how the users speak, rather than employees having to adjust their language for the AI.

Securing Enterprise Voices

In addition to the specialized vocabulary, Oracle’s voice assistant may appeal to businesses concerned about the security of the major consumer voice assistants. Any recording made by the Oracle Digital Assistant is kept in the Oracle cloud, but not accessed by any Oracle employees or contractors.

Oracle likely felt it important to emphasize the nature of their security arrangements in light of the way every major voice assistant maker ended up facing criticism and regulatory scrutiny this summer for allowing contractors to hear and transcribe audio clips recorded by voice assistants. The point of those programs is to check and improve the accuracy and performance of the voice assistants, but the backlash has already led to changes in the way Apple, Google, Amazon, and others balance privacy with working on improving their voice assistants.

“Enterprises are demanding an AI-powered voice assistant that understands their specific vocabulary and enables naturally expressive interactions for its users,” Oracle’s AI and Digital Assistant vice president Suhas Uliyar said in a statement. “Most of all though, enterprises value a highly secure AI-powered voice assistant that stores their business’ sensitive data in Oracle’s second generation cloud infrastructure.”

Enterprise Voices Get Louder

That Oracle felt the need to make a voice assistant marks an important milestone in the growth of enterprise voice assistants. A growing number of companies are experimenting with adding voice assistants to their workflow, either building their own or incorporating those made by other companies.

For example, New Zealand startup Aider developed a conversational platform to give small business owners an audio connection for data applications. Aider combines a consumer virtual assistant with the ability to answer questions about revenue, sales, and other business metrics, and spot or report on trends and unusual occurrences. Then there’s LatentView Analytics, which built its Casper voice platform as a way of using a voice assistant to access and analyze business data.

The larger voice assistant makers aren’t ignoring enterprise either. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all have enterprise skill-building kits. But, that requires the time and ability to build a new skill, while Oracle’s voice assistant specifically promises that no coding is necessary. The bigger companies also lack the privacy measures that Oracle wants to highlight. Whether Oracle’s voice assistant will succeed on its own merits is yet to be determined, but the concept of integrating voice assistants into business functions is likely to become standard if enough companies of Oracle’s size choose to invest in voice.


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