Voice assistants are easily the most prominent gadgets
in that people are trying to figure out today. Just as any innovative
technology, in order to leverage its benefits, people need to make some small
sacrifices here and there — sometimes in time invested in getting used to it,
or in changing the way they use technology in general.
However, voice assistants don’t just focus on a very
narrow spectrum of tasks. Their functionality is very broad, and it naturally
poses the question — who are the people using them and why do they use them in
the first place? The virtual assistant market is about to grow to a whopping 3 billion USdollars
by 2020, which makes the question even more relevant.
A recent study suggests that the predominant group of
virtual assistant users are generally young men with a sizable income. The
paper indicates that 43% percent of the demographic comprises of men, 50% of
people between the ages of 18-34, and nearly a half of the demographic is made
up of people with a household income of around $65.000/year.
The Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report published
in 2018 mentions that there are currently little under 20% of US adults using
virtual assistants regularly. Nearly 62% of them use their assistants at least
once or twice a day.
Uses and applications
There is also considerable variation in the ways people
use voice assistants. Despite there being a large intersection in the ways
people put them into use in their daily lives, there is still a noticeable
difference in their application. A report published back in 2017 describes how
shoppers use voice-controlled assistants, by separating them in two distinct
groups — on the one hand, there are representatives of Generation X and Y, in
the other — boomers and seniors.
Kanter Retail Report
The most visible difference in the way these two age
groups use their devices can be identified in a few particular activities. The
younger generation uses assistants to play games and to make purchases online
disproportionately more, in comparison to their counterparts. Whereas boomers
and seniors are more interested in getting the weather forecast and look up
certain information on the web or answer questions.
However, the most common function that these devices
serve is playing music, and this has interesting implications for companies
that run ads. It seems that users are considerably less likely to
skip commercials while playing music on Alexa. The reason is that if you tell
your device to skip 30 seconds, you may miss the beginning of the next song.
Moreover, commanding the device to skip a certain amount of time every time it
airs an ad can be considered frustrating.
The allure of voice assistants
Another central question is why people
find voice assistants useful. Nearly a half of the technology’s adepts say that
they use it because “it’s fun.”
This can partly be attributed to the humanization of the devices and how
they’re programmed to sometimes give humorous, snarky, and even cheeky answers.
Incidentally, the humanization of voice assistants has
caused many people to want to bond with the machines. Until today, Alexa alone
has had over 250,000 marriage proposals. Moreover, people tend to refer to
assistants by using pronouns such as he/she, which we normally use to address
humans or living beings which we feel close to. Furthermore, very soon the
algorithms on the basis of these devices may use voice
and emotion to give us a better understanding of ourselves.
Eighty-seven of the people who use the technology
regularly state that “when it works properly, it really simplifies my life.”
It’s safe to say that they will work increasingly well, given the ability to
learn and self-improve.
Another central idea behind the virtual assistants’
popularity is the low cognitive load. They aren’t quite intellectually
“At some point, it’s safe to say that having the
information communicated to us is a more accessible way of consuming it,
instead of having to read it off the screen, after having to look for the right
answer”, says Jack Martinson, a marketing director at TopWritersReview.
As a consequence, these changes in “communication” have
triggered changes in the way websites optimize for search engine ranking. There
are now companies that specialize in website and
text optimization for voice assistants.
Who do people refrain from using them?
When asked about the reasons they don’t find the
technology compelling, respondents have named a few common reasons for concern.
There is still a large number of people who find the
technology “useless.” Nearly 45% of respondents similarly voiced their
concern for a possible privacy breach. After all, there have many instances of
people writing about voice assistants listening to their conversations and
showing them ads based on the recent topics of their conversations. These
rumors, however, have been refuted.
Despite exploding with popularity all over the world,
the voice assistant technology is yet to find its place in society. It seems
that we use them for a broad spectrum of functions, but are yet to discover
their real potential. Similarly, there is a significant fraction of the
American population that doesn’t find the devices trustworthy and even useless.
Although there is a large number of people passionate
about voice assistants, the greater days of the technology are yet to come.
Steven Mehler is a passionate writer, dedicated to
traveling and teaching people to lead a better life. He’s a psychology graduate
from Durham University. Steven is currently an editor for Rated By Students.