Voice AI Predictions for 2022 from 25 Industry Leaders
How will voice AI develop in 2022? More than 25 voice industry pros offer your predictions for the coming year. There will be more enterprise focus as a continuing trend of 2021, more custom assistants, and several new developments related to the metaverse.
This past year was an important transition year for the voice AI market as Brandon Kaplan and Pete Erickson aptly highlight. Consumer applications and the general-purpose consumer assistants from the tech giants drove interest in the market for many years, but that changed in 2021 as enterprise use cases and customer, brand-owned assistants took center stage. Our guest commentators see those trends expanding in 2022 along with acquisitions, collaboration, and voice control compared to conversational interactions becoming more prominent.
The Evolution of the Voice AI Market
Brandon Kaplan, CEO, Skilled Creative
Skilled Creative’s prediction for conversational ai in 2022 is continued diversification. Five years ago, our “voice” community was huddled around a growing fire of Alexa Skills and Google Actions, looking for warmth. Five years later, Skills/Actions represent a slice on a pie chart of conversational AI. From voice commerce and voice media to other third-party voice platforms and enterprise solutions, if you want to be involved in the conversational ai industry in 2022 it will be incredibly important to educate yourself on the breadth of technologies and then define where in that spectrum your organization fits.
Audrey Arbeeny, CEO and founder, Audiobrain
I think there will be more companies collaborating as the landscape continues to get more dynamic. I am already seeing this happen. This brings power and resources to enable each to create and deliver more experiential offerings, and to provide resources that fill the experiences that are not offered today.
Benjamin Brown, vice president, Converse Now
Voice AI will reshape public perception of artificial intelligence and its role in everyday life. Industry-wide labor shortages have led to a rapid adoption of conversational AI, where businesses of all types are seeing a win-win-win situation: enhancing the guest experience, improving team member quality of life, and keeping businesses open that would otherwise be short-staffed. This rapid adoption is fueling voice AI with the conversations it needs to self-learn and improve, creating a cycle for even easier adoption moving forward.
Dr. Patricia Scanlon, founder and executive chair, SoapBox
While voice commands have been available in gaming consoles for a number of years with varying degrees of success and adoption, in 2021 we started to see increased activity. In an unexpected move, Amazon brought voice control to Microsoft’s Xbox gaming consoles via the “Alexa for Xbox” app. Oculus VR introduced the wakeword ‘Hey Facebook’ to initiate voice interactions but so far this has been limited to simple voice commands and not in the VR experiences. Sony is now rumored to be working on voice control for the PS5. In 2022 we will start to see voice interactions beyond simple commands, integrated into the actual gameplay to create more immersive experiences in AAA titles.
John Goscha, CEO, Native Voice
In 2022, we believe the industry will focus on the Quality of voice experiences. We believe brand-owned voice assistants will go deeper and do more than general voice assistants. We believe low-power, always-listening wake word capabilities will become prevalent in hearables and ‘open ear’ hearables will gain popularity – ushering in the era of the ‘all-day’ wearable AI.
Dominik Meissner, founder, 169 Labs
We will see developments in NLU (like Google Lambda or Alexa Conversations) that will improve natural conversations style. Goole will double down on a voice-driven assistant (focused on smartphones) to strengthen the existing strategy. We will see more voice-enabled smartphone apps.
Braden Ream, CEO, Voiceflow
We’ll see a continued acceleration of custom assistant development in call centres, cars, mobile apps, websites, drive-thrus, and more as is evident by the increased funding for companies enabling these kinds of solutions.
Jason Fields, chief strategy officer, Voicify
Custom assistants are on the rise and with good reason. While a presence on the primary ‘leased’ assistants of Google and Alexa are table stakes for many brands, having full ownership of the assistant on their owned channels (mobile, web, chat, etc) is being quickly realized.
Paul Sweeney, head of product, Webio (custom assistants)
Voice assistants, in the form of custom voice assistants, will begin to displace “standard IVRs” in a more dramatic way in 2022 and 2023 as companies take a long hard look at what they have to do to become digital. Traditional Voice IVRs are becoming a digital constraint, as opposed to being a digital channel (“how can we reduce voice calls on these subjects” will be heard in the operations rooms of most businesses, more than “how can we drive people to our IVR”). Remember, call centre software is also “at least” a $30 billion market.
Mike Zagorsek, chief operating officer, SoundHound
In the near future, we will see voice assistants taking a more proactive role by making helpful suggestions and taking actions based on context and user preferences. Proactive voice assistants will remind drivers to stop for gas or alert them when the car needs maintenance and could even suggest a pizza delivery for TV viewers during the “Big Game.” A growing emphasis on the user experience will result in improved interactive voice experiences and higher adoption rates. As more people interact with voice assistants more often and on more devices, the uptick in usage and the resulting increase in engagement will get the attention of advertisers who will see the value of promoting their brands and offerings on individual voice platforms.
Maarten Lens-FitzGerald, founder, Project Zilver
Enterprise. Enterprise. Enterprise. This is where the use case is–not with general assistants. Music, lights, and generic questions are not enough to sustain the efforts of general assistants and the action/skill-app market didn’t happen. Assistants were a single narrative while ‘enterprise’ is a multitude of narratives fitting specific user-groups, value chain positions, and, of course, markets and propositions. Therefore it will be a choir of stories in the coming year. Not everyone will hear the melody of the enterprise movement resulting in a bit of a feeling of the demise of voice. Put in another way, we passed the peak of expectations of general assistants and are on the downward slope of finding the actual function of voice in our world which is in the enterprise first. With this the standards are born, the foundation is laid, and the business case becomes clear in what I call the power of the lull.
Dylan Zwick, chief product officer, Pulse Labs AI
I predict that in 2022 we’ll finally start seeing a serious commercial application for voice technology – ordering drive-thru or takeout while in the car.
Scott Stephenson, CEO and co-founder, Deepgram
In 2021, companies utilized automatic speech recognition (ASR) primarily for operational efficiency, compliance, and regulatory mandates. Due to the ongoing pandemic, shift to remote work and digital-first experiences, we saw an appetite from companies looking to leverage ASR for more sophisticated use cases that had the power to increase company revenue (e.g., real-time analytics use cases).
In 2022, we expect to see more enterprises expanding beyond batch into real-time use cases. Companies will look to AI-powered ASR to gain valuable customer and employee insights in real-time, rather than waiting days or weeks for a less accurate transcription to be available. This will allow them to quickly address valuable feedback and improve company performance—leading to increased revenue and customer satisfaction overall. Furthermore, with AI-powered ASR, enterprises won’t have to trade accuracy for speed or lower costs.
Voice Control and Core Use Cases
Roger Kibbe, senior developer evangelist, Samsung
2022 will be a year for the industry to go back to basics i.e. optimize voice experience for what users are using voice for, not what they could be using voice for. Consumers use voice for media, smart home, quick news, and simple Q&A. And yet even in these areas, voice control today often fails or doesn’t work as expected. 2022 will be all about getting these essentials to work well. This means simple voice commands, whether to a smart speaker, a smart appliance, or a phone will work in a seamless fashion. Voice should easily be the best and easiest way to accomplish these tasks – 2022 will be about perfecting the everyday voice usage; making the simple work extremely well is a necessary step to a true conversational AI future.
Paul Sweeney, head of product, Webio
Voice Interaction will remain a voice input or “voice control” mechanism as your end-of-year podcast put it. It will gain ground in being a way we control inputs and requests to digital media, such as songs, podcasts, and movies. Simply put, voice is a great navigator. However, Voice is not a great “configurator”. So my top tip is “Stop thinking conversational technology, and start thinking automation” if you want to deliver results in the short term.
Hannes Heikenheimo, CTO and co-founder, Speechly
Voice AI will become more and more relevant in straightforward information inputting use cases like text inputting, listing, and form filling. On mobile, the trend of opting for speech-to-text input in place of the virtual keyboard will continue with text-based messaging like email, slack, and WhatsApp but in other inputting heavy applications as well. This will accelerate the relevance of more sophisticated in-app voice inputting.
Another development, as the globe covid pandemic starts its third year, and remote work is the norm, there will be a rise of voice augmented productivity features and applications related to information extraction and command and control as well as social voice gaming in remote communication platforms like zoom and their app stores.
Virtual Beings, Metaverse, and GPT-3
Giulio Caperdoni, head of innovation, Videmme
Although the beta version was launched in 2020, it was in 2021 that GPT-3 found increasingly widespread adoption in different application contexts, as well as seeing a growing number of large language models alternatives, including some released as open source. Intelligent conversational avatars delivering GPT-3 generated responses digital human platforms have become increasingly sophisticated, generating truly realistic avatars. So the combination of large language models together with digital human platforms will have an important development in 2022.
Amy Stapleton, CEO, Chatables
Sadly, at some point in 2022, people who purchased intelligent NFTs (iNFTs) on the promise that they could rapidly “upgrade their intelligence” will realize they have been misled. Purchasers of iNFTs were told they could “train” their GPT-3-based chatbots and buy upgrades that would enable these talking personalities to perform valuable services and even create great original art and music or offer valuable services. As the training process continues, it will clash with the reality that all large language model-driven bots are extremely limited in terms of the use cases they can convincingly perform. In general, I predict that 2022 will see a growing disillusionment among those trying to use large language model technologies to create interesting virtual beings.
Paul Sweeney, head of product, Webio
Avatars/ metaverse/ AR-Spatial-Voice will create a new Hype Cycle in the “what’s next for Conversational AI Space”. My top tip is that we will probably import a lot of existing thinking from the Gaming space and think of it as new. We will have our minds blown by what the kids have been doing for years. My guess is that the Enterprise will 100% have to deliver digital transformation objectives and that anything less than a fully wired up, end-to-end automation solution, is not going to find favour.
Chithra Durgam, DDS and founder, Blue Check Skill
2022 will see an increased use of voice with chatbots in the Metaverse, avatars using synthetic voices, synthetic voices increasingly reading audiobooks, and more interactive Alexa/Google Home technology platforms adding more discoverability to voice content. As optimistic as I am, there are still questions in regards to the Metaverse involving the long-term rights to the use of another’s voice, maintaining customer service as companies utilize more technology, and authenticating avatars to prevent fraud. With certainty, companies will be leveraging Conversation AI technology in spaces it hasn’t before to offer more continuity to their branding.
Jamie Beaumont, chief operating officer, SoapBox
We are increasingly hearing about the metaverse, an environment that will naturally be controlled by voice interaction and gesture, rather than keyboard and mouse. In 10 years, today‘s children will be metaverse natives just as today‘s 20 and 30 somethings are digital natives. We will therefore see a greater focus on providing digital accessibility, including voice, to kids across a range of experiences.
Hannes Heikenheimo, CTO and co-founder, Speechly
The mobile web and web XR will be at the forefront of this development due to clear use cases, an open viral platform, and technological momentum. The big development for voice will also be the rise of augmented and virtual reality (metaverse) devices where voice, both text input as well as command and control will have a central role as the most efficient way to perform certain tasks.
Edward Saatchi, co-founder, Fable
The battle for the soul of the metaverse will commence – Web3 and Free and Open Source Software like Sandbox and Blender vs the centralized companies of Meta, Epic, Roblox, Adobe.
Otto Söderlund, CEO, Speechly
More than half of all the services (apps, websites..) we use on a daily basis will have launched some kind of embedded voice features during 2022.
James Poulter, CEO, Vixen Labs
We are climbing out of the trough of disillusionment, 2022 will be the year the enterprise-level companies and brands begin to treat conversational AI and UIs seriously – in search, commerce, and customer service. The pandemic has shown the need to reach customers with services where they are, in a convenient and often hands-free way. 2022 will be the year that the businesses with the resources to invest, will begin to build the foundational infrastructure of the conversational web.
Todd Mozer, CEO, Sensory
Privacy will move more to the forefront. With advances in synthetic data and the big companies getting diminishing returns from user data there will be continued movement towards AI that works and doesnt need to collect personal data. Hybrid solutions combining on device and cloud will start to enter the mainstream with companies like Sensory pushing the trend.
Dr. Martyn Farrows, CEO, SoapBox
There will be increased scrutiny of voice data as personal data and greater enforcement of regulations, in particular, in relation to data processing and retention, where the voice data is being collated by generic services to profile consumers for eCommerce and advertising purposes. However, a distinction will be drawn for (non-voice tech) brands who are seeking to deploy and retain the value of voice data to grow relationships and brand loyalty.
Finance and Acquisitions
Pete Erickson, founder, Modev
We’re going to see more consolidation, especially as the market for enterprise AI heats up. I predict at least four acquisition deals in excess of $100M.
Sarah Andrew Wilson, chief content officer, Matchbox.io
In 2022, we’ll see more and more acquisitions as the voice technology field begins to narrow. (There will eventually be a reaction / correction to this narrowing, but that will be post-2022.)
Chetan Damani, co-founder, Cashew.ai
Big publishers will start to work out how to monetise voice successfully. I believe we will see a number of publishers break the $1 million a month revenue milestone, either through paid-for content or via advertising.
Dr. Martyn Farrows, CEO, SoapBox
2022 will see a significant increase in attempts to monetise voice-first services outside of big tech smart assistants.
Joao Alqueres – CO-CEO @ BotBridge / Founder @ Iara Digital
We will see the rise of more forms of monetization tied to how users interact will voice assistants. What the industry has tried to do up to now is to emulate how apps are monetized in mobile but as different as mobile is from desktop, voice is from mobile. So, we need a different form of monetization. We firmly believe that monetization based on engagement will rise to be relevant in the voice space.
Apple to Finally Make Some Moves
Max Child, co-founder, Volley
Apple unveils HomeOS as the unifying software operating system behind HomePod, Apple TV, and (maybe) new headset device. Significant upgrades to voice control and integration with iOS/other Apple platforms are the key features.
Pete Haas, senior solutions architect, XAPP AI
Apple will end the year entering the AR/VR space, which will expand the use of voice, and how people think about their relationship with a digital assistant. The are 2 products rumored to launch in 2022: A set of sleek glasses, and a lightweight mixed reality headset using eye-tracking cameras, and portions of their functionality controlled through voice. This marriage of AI/ML technologies coupled with the modality of an on-person digital assistant whispering in your ear with helpful information, or performing tasks on your behalf might be the thing that connects it all together.
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