Voice Assistants Defined

What is a Voice Assistant?

Most people are familiar with Voice Assistants (VAs) like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Microsoft Cortana and Apple Siri. They use these devices for music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and real time news information. They can also use VAs for home automation, to control smart devices, i.e. the Internet of Things (IoT), or to play standalone applications.

VAs use natural language parsing (NLP) to communicate in ways that human beings find familiar. They speak in colloquial English and answer in kind. Effectively, they are audio-only interfaces that connect front end users to the traditional back end computational power and process like Big Data. They allow users to communicate while their attention is elsewhere, hands-free and eyes-free. As such VAs are meant to be the vehicles of seamless and perfect communication – though your mileage may vary.

Under tightly controlled conditions, we’ve found that VAs may come close to this ideal experience. The key is to subtly guide users to limit innaccuracy and misunderstanding. You can learn more about the tricks of the trade here.