The race for the title of best voice assistant on the market is well and truly on.

Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, Google Now, and Amazon’s Alexa are the main contestants, and the competition is getting ever fiercer.

The main driving force behind the race is Voice User Interface (VUI), an increasingly popular technology that allows a device to interact with the user through voice.

According to the recent Global Markets and Technologies for Voice Recognition report by BCC Research, the volume of the global market for voice recognition technologies was $90.3 billion in 2015 and is expected to increase to $184.9 in 2021 at an average annual rate of 12.1 percent.

Current usage and predictions on how VUI will change the User Experience landscape

What features help VUI to engage customers?

Features that UX designers should keep in mind when developing VUIs:

1. It helps to make interaction with the product conversational

Voice interaction is popular, and VUI takes it one step further by making it truly conversational. Given that it understands natural speech, it can recognize a wide variety of different inputs provided by the user.

For example, people tend to speak differently to how they type information. When we interact with Google, we use keywords instead of full sentences.

Let’s imagine you are in a new city, Chicago, and you wake up in the morning and want a cup of coffee. You take your phone, open Google and type “coffee shops nearby”. These keywords are quite popular, so a lot of results are likely to appear.

However, when you interact with a personal assistant like Siri and Cortana, you’d want to make your request in a more conversational fashion:

“Cortana, can you suggest coffee shops in Chicago with good reviews?”

Voice assistants thus can engage us in a small conversation because they have been programmed to reply to thousands of different inputs.

2. It can help to interact with a device in different environments

Many people interact with their mobile devices while commuting. Some students use them to find information for college paper writing in a loud auditorium. In both cases, the environment is not ideal for voice recognition because of background noise. However, a seamless performance is expected.

VUI helps to improve the experience of the user regardless of the environment because the developers consider different settings to develop noise-robust speech recognition.

3. It is intuitive and becomes more efficient with each use

People love when their personal assistants learn about them and give them recommendations and advice based on the previous experience. VUI plays a critical role here since the input is provided by voice in different words. Here is the example of a great interaction with Siri:

“Siri, are there any good pizza places in this area?”

“Here are some suggestions. The closest one to your home is The Best Pizza.”

“Give me the directions to The Best Pizza.”

“All right, here are the directions.”

By having the ability to retain information about the home address, the assistant gave the directions to the closest pizza place to the home of the user.

The bottom line

VUI is the next logical step because it enhances user experience in a profound way. To meet the needs of customers and engage them, a voice assistant or any kind of VUI should be intuitive, conversational, and provide relevant results despite the surroundings.

The success of personal assistants like Cortana and Siri, which have millions of active monthly users, is proof that VUI can engage users and keep them interested.

UX designers are in a great position to develop and make digital devices talk and listen to us more than ever.

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