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What should users expect from speech technology applications?

Workers can start to expect more from speech technology applications than just voice-activated search. As capabilities evolve, new business use cases will emerge.

Speech technology applications are rapidly evolving. Adding AI building blocks, such as machine learning and natural language processing, moves the technology into new areas that improve productivity. A prime example is conversational AI, where workers interact with chatbots using speech rather than talking person to person. Other examples include speech to text and text to speech, each of which has a distinct set of use cases that make for better collaboration experiences.

Since these capabilities are new, it's hard to know what to expect. Employees should adjust their behaviors as the new technology enters the workplace. At present, none of these speech technologies are mandatory, and not everyone wants to speak with a chatbot or is comfortable talking to a machine. The two basic expectations that all workers need to keep in mind with current speech technology applications is that the technology isn't perfect and the business use cases will differ from consumer use cases.

1. Speech technology may never be perfect

In some scenarios, speech technologies are so good that it's difficult to tell whether a person or a machine is talking, and the accuracy is approaching human quality. However, it's not 100% accurate, and it may never get there. As such, end users need to accept that these modes of speech won't be perfect but also recognize that they're sufficient for many workplace applications.

AI-based speech technologies improve and get smarter as you use them. End users should understand the value of speech technology will also grow over time. Speech technology applications will be used for more complex tasks as workers establish trust with the technology and recognize that the results will be valuable even if the applications aren't perfect.

2. Workplace applications will change

Consumer-based experiences with technology are carrying over into the workplace, and that also applies to AI-driven speech technology. In most cases, workplace usage of speech technology translates to searches or casual queries, much like using Siri on a smartphone or Alexa at home. These use cases still have value in the office, but workers should have higher expectations.

The innovation happening with speech technology applications is aimed at improving productivity. Use cases should focus on employees working smarter when hands-free, working in mobile settings, not having to take notes during meetings, using voice commands to listen to voice messages or email, or using voice to edit a document. With these new and improving capabilities, workers and IT need to think well beyond just search use cases.

This was last published in May 2019

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