Voice bots or Audio bots refers to the AI based virtual assistants that can perform tasks and services, on the basis of audio commands received by the user. Voice bots may be considered as an extension of chat bots. However, voice bots work solely through audio commands and can be “more human” than chat bots, as voice gives them a pseudo-personality. Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are some of the popular examples for the voice bots that are revolutionising our day to day lives.
History and Evolution of Bots
A bot is a computer program inclusive of AI elements that interacts with the users and performs their tasks. The history of bots can be traced to 1950, when Alan Turner set forth the condition for any computer program to be truly considered as AI by surpassing human judgement ability. The first attempt was made by the scientists at MIT who developed ELIZA in 2966 who could simulate human conversations from a set of pre-recorded responses. Similarly, in 1972 PARRY was developed, who had much more abilities than ELIZA, and was used in psychotherapy. Although, ELIZA and PARRY failed to pass the Turning Test – that qualifies a bot as AI, they were still considered as landmark development in conceptualizing the idea of bots.
The development of bots took a steep turn in the internet era. The history of internet bot began in 1988 with the arrival of Internet Relay Chat (IRC). IRC bots offered automated services to the users and prevented the closing down of server due to inactivity. Internet crawlers such as WebCrawler (1994) and BackRub (1996) were developed for the search engines. These helped a great deal in shaping the internet we know today. For instance, with the help of internet crawler like GoogleBot, even the most important information could be searched through millions of webpages in a few seconds. One of the initial applications of chat bots (formerly called as chatterbots) was in the chat rooms and dialog windows in the websites.
The history of voice bots can be traced back to 1960, with the launch of IBM Shoebox, world’s first digital speech recognition device that could identify 16 words and digits. Since then, many similar devices were introduced which could identify more number of words. After the introduction of internet and smart phones, voice bots have been emerging in an increasing rate. A milestone in this regard is the launch of Apple’ Siri in 2011. In the following year, Google Now was launched, and in 2013, Microsoft introduced Cortana. In 2014, Amazon launched Alexa and Amazon Echo, which was made available to its prime members. Since then, voice bots have been changing the scenario. On 4th October 4th October 2017, Amazon Echo and Alexa were introduced in India by the invitation from the Government.
Two types of bots
Ever since the emergence of internet, different types of bots with a variety of uses are being developed. Based on the medium they use, bots can be typically classified into two categories: chat bots and voice bots. Although there is no much difference in their functioning, chat bots are exclusive text based software programs. On the other hand, a voice bot responds through text-to-speech responses, or mixture of both. For instance, while browsing a website, chat bot may appear as a pop-up with a message. Voice bot is may be when it approaches the user with an audio message.
How Voice/Audio bots are dominating
Ever since the dawn of civilization, language has been the convenient way to produce and transfer information. A lot more can be conveyed by altering the tone, word preferences and pitch of voice. This is the reason why voice bots are preferred to chat bots. It is inevitable that voice bots will dominate the world by replacing chat bots. Voice bots are product of massively growing new interactive software medium, which is the result of rapidly transforming IT and economical cloud computing technology. The recent release of smart speakers such as Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod indicates the revolution of Voice bots have just begun. On 7th March 2018, Voicebot Smart Speaker Consumer Adoption Report was released that pointed out that 20% of the US adults already own a smart speaker.
We see Amazon and Google offering voice assistant devices for less than 50 USD. Voice bots are already making our lives easier by performing tasks such as setting up reminders, meetings, alarms or providing news and notifications. Soon enough, with the progression of technology, voice bots shall be capable of performing much more complex tasks. Voice bots shall be every man’s subordinate, or perhaps – a Genie, who shall perform the tasks based on our commands.
Future of Voice bots
Until recently, voice bots were a component of luxury that was available of iPhones and other expensive smartphones. However, with the inclusion of voice bots in smart devices such as smart speakers, smart TVs, smart watches etc. suggest that the future of voice bots is highly prosperous. There is no doubt that voice bots shall dominate chat bots, because of the power of aural medium over text medium to convey messages effectively. A voice creates a sense of ‘personality’ and thus, voice bots has the ability to influence humans to make decisions. The customer support industry will be completely overtaken by voice bots.
With the technology giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft competing to dominate smart technology market, we will see the voice bots everywhere in the near future. Soon enough, all the brands, websites and products will “speak for itself” – thanks to voice bots.