How voicebots are taking over, one conversation at a time

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We all know by now that voice control and conversational UI are changing the way we interact with our devices. Chatbots and voice-controlled Siri-like assistants are determining how we consume information, products, and services. How can your business take advantage of this emerging trend? What are the challenges and fast wins, and what’s the fastest way to get there? More than anything, we need to talk naturally. That is the key to success.

The human-machine interface — or in simple terms, the way we interact with machines — has evolved tremendously over the years. In the beginning, when computing power was extremely scarce and expensive, investing that resource on a user interface just didn’t make sense. Today, when our smartphones pack more computing power than a supercomputer did in the past, technology vendors can afford to invest in making the human-machine interaction more natural and intuitive.

For many years, a textual interface was the only way to interact with computers. It started with commands with a strict format and evolved into free, natural-language text. A common use of textual interaction is the search engine. Today we can write a natural sentence such as “search for a cheap flight from NYC to Paris” and Google will provide me with a list of relevant cheap flights. A new evolution for textual interfaces is chatbots. The usage of chatbots is an interesting shift, where human-machine textual interaction becomes more natural, like a text conversation with a friend.

A later stage of human-machine interface was the graphical user interface (GUI), which mimicked the way we perform mechanical tasks in real life, like pushing a button to turn on/off a device. The GUI became extremely popular during the ’90s with the introduction of Microsoft Windows. The latest advance of graphical interfaces is the introduction of touchscreen devices; this represents a more natural way of doing tasks than with a mouse.

A new way to interact with machines is voice-based computing. Machines now recognize our voice, understand our conversation, respond back, and provide assistance. Being a natural interaction method for humans, voice computing will tremendously increase user engagement with applications and will increase KPIs by providing a natural way for people to achieve their goals. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 30 percent of our interactions with technology will be through “conversations” with smart machines.

But with the opportunities that this whole new world is offering for businesses come the challenges: multiple APIs, security, development time, multiple business logics, multiple SDKs…

Just like any new technology, voice computing adds another challenge for CTOs and CIOs in small and large enterprises because it requires a new set of developer skills. To enable voice-control interaction, developers must have profound knowledge of machine learning, voice recognition, and natural language processing. To build a team to fully support such initiatives, companies are forced to invest a large amount of money and resources, whereas the ROI is not always there to justify such an investment.

I believe this situation is a gift. With all the challenges we see, it is obvious that new interaction forms, and new touch-points with our clients, are a pure gift for every business. Front-end has been a growing challenge for the past two decades now, when new devices and operating systems introduced to the market added another layer of complexity in a world of new opportunities.

Businesses must look for the right tool that will help them to react in real time to market UI and UX trends, with the goal of continuously increasing their clients’ engagement. They should be using platforms that can help them implement seamlessly advanced GUI, native features, and voice-control features in a low-code web development environment.

Chen Levkovich is the founder and CEO of Zuznow, a mobile development platform.

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