Voice-Activated Apps Are Changing Everything. Here's How.

Read Time: 5 min

Around this time last year, when iOS 9 debuted, the idea of “Hey Siri” was deemed a life-changer by some. Imagine waking up on a Saturday morning:


“Hey Siri. What’s the weather?”

“Hey Siri. Is that Mexican place open yet?”


P.S. You haven’t left your bed yet. It’s a wonderful time to be alive.

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That’s only scratching the surface of voice activated apps, though.


In iOS 10, the introduction of SiriKit for developers pushes voice activation forward. You can tell Siri to call a friend or book you a ride-share. SiriKit basically lets developers create new ways for phone users to interact with apps, with the overall goal of making everyday tasks easier. A noble goal, yes? And while Apple’s recent banishment of the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 prompted an explosion of memes and tweets about losing Air Buds, plenty of outlets pointed out that the real story was Apple’s emphasis on how easily they can access and communicate with Siri.

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This isn’t just limited to iPhones, though. Amazon’s in the voice activated apps game with Alexa, which is available on their Fire HD 8 tablet. Alexa on the Fire is the first time they’ve put the virtual assistant on mobile; previously it was a part of Echo, which is Amazon’s smart home-style speaker system. Amazon likely responded to the marketplace here; as The Verge notes in the above link, most major consumer tech companies are pushing voice activated apps on mobile these days.

Microsoft is no different: Cortana has a “Hey Cortana” feature on Windows 10. While maybe the coolest thing about Cortana is still how accurately it predicts international soccer, it has a host of other features including easy reminder-setting and Outlook calendar info retrieval.

 

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Cortana in Windows 10. Image

 
There are other cool voice activated apps on the market now, including RunGo, which lets you map a run, gives you vocal guidance, and allows you to take calls and listen to music along the way. (Plus, there are pre-planned routes in a host of cities including NYC and San Francisco.) Heck, there’s even a voice activated app for taking better selfies.

 

This is all the present. What about the future of voice-activated apps?


Via ComScore, 200 billion searches per month will be done via voice activation by 2020. This is likely to create a $50B market around voice activated apps and search, meaning consumer tech will continue to flood this market and iterate. The auto industry is already all over voice activation; Dragon Drive, in the BMW 7 Series sedan, is a voice-activated app you can interrupt and really have a dialogue with. Audi’s “virtual cockpit” is drawing raves.

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The BMW 7 Series sedan features voice-activated "Dragon Drive." (But you can interrupt it whenever you want.)


One of the more notable applications of voice-activated apps in society is in workplaces where hands-free mobility can be essential,
such as hospitals. Additionally, voice activation has been shown in studies to be three times faster than texting -- meaning civil services that had been shifted over to text to become faster will likely move to voice activated apps within the next few years.

 

Managing your money is moving over to voice-activated apps too, with Finie. That’s an app developed at the University of Michigan that integrates with mobile banking apps, essentially providing a virtual assistant that can answer questions about your unique financial accounts. You can cue it up with a question like “Any abnormal transactions in May?” and it will answer you as it displays relevant data.

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As with most trends in tech, understanding where the money is -- and where new markets will emerge -- is crucial to predicting the speed of trends. Voice-activated apps are no different. As we see more smart homes and faster voice recognition, people will begin to appreciate voice activation more and more and navigate their daily tasks to voice activated apps. As the market grows, new iterations will follow. We may not be at a ScarJo Her situation just yet, but we’ll get there in the next decade or so.


How have voice-activated apps changed your life? (Or have they at all?) Tell us in the comments.

 

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