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Brief Published: 22 Jun 2016

Voice as the New User Interface

As the technology behind Apple's Siri and similar interfaces improves, speaking is set to become the new typing. Mary Meeker's latest Internet trends presentation forecasts that by 2020, half of all web searches will use voice or image search rather than text.

Amazon's Echo, a smart home device with a user interface that relies solely on voice, is now in more than four million homes, according to Meeker. Owners of the device can verbally summon a Domino's pizza delivery, an Uber taxi, or their personal Fitbit data. Google's similar forthcoming Home device is also voice-activated, as is a 'conversational shopping' feature they are working on.

US department store Kohl's now lets its app users search for items by voice. Meanwhile, consumers checking IBM's Weather.com will soon be able to speak to the ads — for instance, asking Campbell's Soup for recipe ideas.

IBM touts its Watson Ads initiative as a way to "humanise the ad experience" through voice control. Microsoft's Bing emphasised the humanising features of voice and natural language in a recent white paper. Apple is also putting new emphasis on Siri, recently opening up its functionality to developers (again, think requesting an Uber hands-free). Finally, buzz is building around the Viv voice assistant, developed by Siri's creator, which is set for release later this year.

For more on the evolution of user interfaces, see UX Best Practice for Marketers and UI/UX Design for Future Consumers. And see Concierge Commerce for a look at how AI will intersect with retail.