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Voice User Interfaces and How to Build Them


People have been talking to computers for years, but it’s only been in the past few years that it’s become one of the biggest trends in all of technology. The breakthroughs and applications are occurring at a blistering pace, and it’s hard to keep track of all the newest advances in the field of voice user interfaces (VUI). However, if you’re thinking about getting a new app developed, you better understand how popular VUI really is. Let’s see what’s happening now, which sectors it’s affecting, and how to go about integrating VUI in your next app. 

How Big Is It?

Names like Alexa, Cortana, and Siri are as recognizable and commonly heard as any others in households today. That fact alone is eye-opening, and should give you an idea about how big VUI truly is. If not, take a look at these stats, courtesy of this infographic:

  • As of January 2018, there were at least 1 billion voice searches performed a month. That number is certainly higher now.
  • 72% of people who have used VUI with devices like smart speakers now report they use them every day. It’s clear that it’s easy to get used to this new technology.
  • Google and Amazon account for over 90% of the voice search devices and usage. They were the originators, so it’s natural they would dominate the market. It also means the current market is wide open for innovation and opportunity. 

This is clearly the way of the future…so much so that some experts claim regular keyboards may become somewhat obsolete in the future. Children are growing up with it, millennials are very used to it, and even older people who may have trouble with vision or mobility issues are finding the value. No matter what, it’s clear that voice-activated devices are the future of mobile apps

How Is It Being Used?

One of the largest and most-used applications of VUI is smart speakers and digital assistants. We’ve already mentioned Google, Amazon, and Apple, and they, along with Microsoft, currently dominate the landscape. Not coincidentally, they also all contain the ability to research, locate, and sell goods, with Amazon clearly being the chief beneficiary of that. But there are many other devices and uses to explore besides just smart speakers.

Consider the basic ways that everyday people use VUI. Most people have integrated it into certain locations and common tasks, like asking for the weather in the morning, putting music on, or listening to the news at night. Because of the danger levels associated with handheld devices while driving, many people have VUI- capable devices in their car for phone usage, navigation and controlling the audio system. Lots of opportunities are found in the automobile sector, especially because of the legal ramification of texting or otherwise using your smartphone while driving. Regardless of the setting, making a VUI app a part of one’s daily routine is the definition of creating a sticky app.

While it may seem strange, any service or retail app that has available VUI capability has an advantage over those who don’t. It’s just that more convenient to use voice controls, so don’t underestimate the attraction of VUI apps. You want your brand to be associated with cutting edge technology, or else some other brand will. 

How Does VUI Work?

Now, we’re getting into the nuts and bolts of the technology, though we’ll do it in a basic way. We’ll also start with fairly recent advances to give it perspective. Here’s a diagram showing how Amazon’s Alexa processes a simple request:

It’s a complex process, to be sure, but today’s app development partners have typically been able to install VUI packages in an app fairly quickly.

The developer needs to assess things like device connectivity, processing accuracy, and testing in various environments, among other variables. Other factors include voice triggers (like saying Alexa to get the app to start) and simple command versus complex request. For example, saying, “I want to buy a plane ticket”, as opposed to “I need a plane ticket to New York City in October under $300”. The simple request will run you through all the variables it needs, which makes for a longer process, while more advanced VUI will be able to parse out the second request by time, location, and price. It all depends how you want your app to perform.

This all translates to the UX of the app or device. Don’t underestimate the importance of this; frustrated users will quickly uninstall if they don’t get the results they want. As such, your VUI should have responses to assure the user that it’s working. Affirmative (“Yes, I’ll order those tickets. Are you sure they are correct?”), corrective (“That option isn’t working. Did you mean October instead?”), or, in the case something isn’t working, sympathetic or apologetic (“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Can we try it again?”) responses should be considered, installed, and rigorously tested on various target groups to ensure smooth operations and no frustration. On that note, a phrase like “I need help” or “I want to talk to a real person” should be recognizable and actionable.

Wrapping it Up

In short, VUI is worth the time and investment for most apps that are being developed today. Convenience, brand awareness, and the ability to direct the user towards conversions are all great reasons, and consumers are coming to expect that. It is popular with all demographics, so its ability to reach a broad audience is clear. Talk to your app development partner to see how VUI can revolutionize your next mobile app.

Do you want to implement VUI into your app idea? Reach out to us for a free consultation to see if your idea is viable!



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