Digitalization is not Detriment- Believe Us

Smartphone Assistants could be the next big thing.

January 14, 2021 By Chukky Derrick

Talking to your phone might strike you as weird. We talk ‘on’ the phone all the time, yes only in this scenario, imagine there’s no angry boss at the other end, just a nice monotone female phoney voice struggling to read your mind. I know the only time Google assistant pops up is when you mistakenly touch the home button longer than normal followed by a stifled curse and angry taps on the back button. Humans generally have a tendency to dislike communicating with machines (this seems to have been solved by a company called Hanson Robotics). We use our smartphones for literally anything, email, music, watching a game and even to see in the dark. Interaction is normally ‘hands-on’ or maybe because that’s what people are generally familiar with because it gives them a sense of control.

Despite this, there has been a steady rise in ‘usage’ of smartphone assistants. Enmarketer estimated that about 128 million people will make use of an assistant in the United States only. Popular smartphone assistants are Siri, Alexa, Bixby and Amazon Echo among many others. These were created by the individual companies to improve user experience and productivity and though mainly in its beta stages due to usage worldwide, assistants could be the very next thing because they hold lots of potential especially in the field of A.I. In Africa, mobile assistants are not so popular. The most commonly used is Apple’s Siri though Google Assistant seems to be getting around due to progress and major updates with the Android OS in recent times that has improved its functionality.

Smartphone assistants
infographic showing smartphone assistant usage in the United States in 2017

Most people on the other hand would rather send in a command to their phone via its keyboard in fact, in some smartphones you even have to hold down a physical button to activate its assistant like the side button in the Samsung S7 to activate Bixby, its virtual assistant. The fact that there has to be physical interaction still is a weakening factor for the progress of the assistant. Though dead and quite poorly functional, Microsoft’s Cortana on its lock screen showed a command encouraging you to say something and android’s “hey google” is still in the norm but still Google included a modal to type in physical commands still. The assistants have not yet been developed possibly but with the rise in tech advancements in these times it should be looked into. If this is done, just how good can the assistants get? Could they become as highly functional as the keyboard?

It’s all common psychology

Smartphone Assistants
Source : 9 to 5 mac

Apart from the fact that the smartphone assistants’ voice and its specificity is not a very common thing like the keyboard and there’s no ‘connection’ to machines that could prompt a voice interactive relationship, that communication is actually there. Studies have shown that people tend to feel sad when their smartphones is not with them or rather not around them, plus phones are what many people look at immediately they get up in the morning so that human-machine bond is seemingly present (note that this should not be likened to ‘smartphone addiction’ though that myth is being debunked because most people are actually doing stuff on their phones even if it’s just interacting).

If thoroughly improved, it is possible to link voice-based interactions into that human-machine relationship. Another issue is ‘getting too sucked up’ on voice might not be so welcomed because there’s a feeling that usually comes with ‘hands on’ but there also could be undiscovered positive advantages to voice-based interactions that hasn’t yet been found. In Africa, Android phones are very popular, most of which supports the Google voice assistant but it is almost never utilized though it has been crowned as the smartest voice assistant. One reason could be that people do not understand it or they do not trust it to deliver as effective as they want. This might be true, many voice assistants mainly function with phrases; this might take out the ‘life’ of a meaningful conversation. I’m not calling for a phone as super smart as Sophia because that would be definitely creepy. Or even an assistant like the one in the movie Jexi. If the field of voice command is heavily researched on, it could very much improve user experience and take us for once off the touchscreen method of issuing commands.

Voice assistants might replace the Keyboard in the future

It could probably be a long shot but it is very much possible. Automation and artificial intelligence are on the rise and data is being processed at a larger size and at a faster rate too; it’s very much possible that the keyboard could become irrelevant. Issuing commands via keyboard could tend to be bland and not carry enough information. Voice-based commands through assistants could become developed to determine and detect the emotion of the user probably by taking note of tone density and frequency and also the detection of sounds around all these, added with the command the user has inputted could produce not only better results but also tips and recommendations thus improving user relations with the smartphone or device used in the scenario.  

The Rock shows smartphone assistant potential featuring siri.

In the year 2019, it was estimated by WordStream that 39.3% of millennials made use of voice-based assistants (in the US), this shows that it is a growing trend among young people who mainly use it to get information before purchases are made online and for e-commerce stores. Asides that, it should be taken further from the issuing of commands basis which it is known for to better possibilities. Assistants could serve results if they were made to be able to detect and process the sounds of the environment the user is in as well as the user’s tone for emotional integration. It should be important to note that this would only be achieved when the intelligence of smartphones is greatly improved but nonetheless, it can still be developed and integrated into common phones in the world today.

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