Why talking to inanimate objects is becoming the new normal
By Kenneth Jeanos
When it comes to homework, some teens may have found a fast track to the right answer: voice technology. Hey Siri, what’s the plot of Henry VIII by William Shakespeare? Hey Alexa, why is Deng Xiaoping important? Robotic voice assistants may not be ready to crank out a PhD thesis, but they sure can provide good answers to high school and college homework questions, and teens and college students are at the cutting edge of using them.
Changing the way the world operates
One of the most powerful tools we have as humans, is also our most basic. By opening our mouths and stringing together recognizable sounds, we are able to express ideas, convey emotions, solicit actions and interact with others of our species. Our voice lets us not only be heard but understood. It is the most direct path to quickly getting what we want. And voice technology has the potential to improve how the world communicates. Very soon, it will be changing the way the world operates. Already voice technology is penetrating B2B industries.
At Panasonic, we’ve focused on innovation over the past 100 years for one simple reason: to move us all toward a better life and a better world. As we embark on our second century, we have evolved to become a leading provider of Business to Business and Business to Government innovations. We are engineering not just products but entire experiences: in cities and factories, in stores and offices, in homes and entertainment venues. It’s this mentality, focused on experience, that drives us and has us thinking about voice differently than we have other technologies. We believe that voice is the technology that moves all other technologies forward.
Wonder what’s coming?
For ideas, we recommend talking to Gen Z. This is a group of people born between 1996 and 2012, many of whom are now teenagers--students in middle, in high school and in college. Without doubt, they’re a big group--approximately one-quarter of the U.S. population. They contribute $44 billion to the American economy, according to recent research. The oldest among Gen Z can work, vote and drive.
North America leadership
Research shows many of them are using voice technology, and finding novel ways to employ it. In a recent study of young digital consumers, GlobalWebIndex found that 1 in 3 Gen Z digital consumers in North America are regularly using voice search/commands on their smartphones. That’s more than Europe, Asia Pacific and the rest of the regions studied.
Finding ways to win and hold the attention of the newest generation is important to industry. Here are three ways Gen Z is using voice technology that we believe will influence other consumers.
Using voice to free up our hands and our brains
Gen Z is using voice tech in the car, for what they consider routine, like making phone calls, finding a music play list, or even adjusting the climate. They’re operating TVs with voice commands, eliminating the need for those pesky remote controls that are always going missing. They’re using the new Google Assistant to make appointments and reservations via phone calls so well that the other end of the line is totally unaware that they are speaking to a ‘bot.
Talking to things
Gen Z is growing up in an age of disruption, and voice is one but one of many technologies they’ve figured out how to use to make aspects of life easier and smarter. They show little discomfort talking to a thing alone, or in public. They yell at Alexa to snooze their alarm so they can sleep a little longer. They use voice to change the music when they’re in the shower or pool so their phone doesn’t get wet. They buy kitchen trash cans with lids that open with the simple phrase, “open trash.”
Connecting through voice and other channels at once
Gen Z is at home in a connected world and comfortable toggling between apps. They’ve learned to pay attention to different tasks at once and show an ability to manage competing stimuli. Think voice, text and F2F conversation at once. This group doesn’t want to exit out of their apps and type something into a search bar if they want a question answered – they can now ask the Alexa across the room and receive and answer without having to navigate out of Instagram or Snapchat.
Many members of this digital native generation has in fact arrived at that once-only-dreamt-of future where they are literally talking to things, and having them hear, understand – kinda – and answer back. Pretty incredible.