A major battle is brewing between four behemoths of the technology industry. You may not be aware of the fight, but the winner will have a major impact on your future. Apple kicked off this battle off when it introduced its voice assistant, Siri. IPhone users can use Siri to get information through a voice- and hands-free process. The underlining technology behind Siri is based on artificial intelligence algorithms, Natural Language Interfaces (NLI) and a form of machine learning.
Advances in technology are setting the stage for financial institutions to explore use cases that take advantage of a consumer's most natural communication method ... the voice. It wasn't so long ago that we were amazed that we interact with an IVR to solve basic customer service issues or that we could type on a piece of glass to communicate with our mobile device. The problem was that most IVR systems didn't learn about our needs over time and typing and gesturing is really not the most efficient way to interact with a computer or device for the vastly most common uses most people have. Even for the most basic routines require far more physical and mental effort than what should be required in today's digital age. What if each time you needed to reach out to your bank (or any other business) the organization remembered your entire history of interactions (needs, behaviors, preferences, transaction patterns and timing, etc.), allowing it to have an intelligent'conversation' without going over often repeated steps?
Will the smartphone, one of the most omnipresent gadgets ever made, one day cease to exist? That's what technology reporter Matt Weinberger argues in a recent piece for Business Insider. Weinberger reasons that new technologies, like augmented and virtual reality, voice-activated assistants, and physical gestures, will eliminate the need for a smartphone. This week, we got our first look at Neuralink, a new company cofounded by Musk with a goal of building computers into our brains by way of "neural lace," a very early-stage technology that lays on your brain and bridges it to a computer. It's the next step beyond even that blending of the digital and physical worlds, as human and machine become one.
After Apple's WWDC keynote last month, some reporters asked me if Apple's new additions to Siri are reactionary. They assumed that since Amazon, Google and Microsoft have upped the intelligence of their voice assistants, Apple was forced to make Siri more competitive. But to think that Apple's Siri improvements are reactionary shows a lack of understanding about the company's work in artificial intelligence (AI). Apple has been working on speech and voice AI solutions for decades. In fact, in 1992, I got involved with the earliest version of its voice technology research, which was tied to an early AI and machine learning engine.
A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry. The idea of talking conversationally to computers has been a long time in the works. Science fiction is so often a self-fulfilling prophecy, as it provides a vision for humans to chase after with technological innovation. For those of us who have watched voice-based computer interactions evolve, we have seen it go through many manifestations as it grew up. We now find ourselves in a world where using voice to interface with a computer is commonplace on a regular basis for the masses.