Voice assistants like Alexa and Siri are becoming very popular not only in the home but also in the workplace. If you hook one up to your computer they can streamline a number of tasks, they help to manage your calendar, plan your workflow, reply to emails, and make sure that a meeting runs smoothly.
Just speak into the microphone and tell the assistant what you want them to do. Alexa, where is my next meeting? Siri, can you tell my boss that I’m running late? Give me a rundown of today’s financial updates. By 2020, it is estimated that 50% of internet searches will be performed by a voice assistant.
Improved grammar and flow of your writing
In the near future, these voice assistants could replace keyboards entirely. Employees will not need to type things out because they can dictate everything to Alexa and Siri instead. Entire documents can be ‘written out’ by the voice assistant and the software can even improve the grammar and flow of your writing. Voice assistants can also read documents aloud, so an employee no longer needs to look at their screen.
A person could dictate a report to Alexa, which sends it to a colleague, who listens to the report aloud. Nobody wastes time on typing or reading, so the interaction is more efficient than traditional forms of communication. On average, a person can speak 125 words in a minute, but they can only type 40 in the same amount of time.
Lots of talking, but not to one another
If everyone stopped typing and reading, and instead began to speak aloud with their voice assistants, then the workplace would become polluted with the sound of people constantly muttering to their smart speakers. Every office, no matter the industry, would feel like a noisy call centre. A workplace full of people talking, but where nobody actually talks to each other.
It is worth considering these potential drawbacks. Why go downstairs to speak with HR when you can talk to them via Alexa instead, without ever needing to get up from your desk? Offices could become disjointed, antisocial environments, where workers only interact through the medium of a voice assistant.
What about the kids?
Back in April 2018, Amazon added the ‘Magic Word’ feature to its Echo Dot Kid’s addition, which is designed to provide positive reinforcement by rewarding children who phrase their questions politely – but is this really necessary?
Elizabeth Vandewater, who recently chaired a study at the University of Texas examining the ways that children interact with virtual assistants, is sceptical about the extent of the damage being done, and believes that we are too quick to blame technology for social problems:
“There’s this notion that if all this technology was turned off, everything would be great. We’d be interacting all the time, we’d be reading all the time. I just don’t believe that.”
It is natural to worry about exposing children to any new technology but, as far as tech goes, digital assistants seem fairly benign. In fact, they could teach children conversational skills at a younger age and allow them to access information verbally before they are able to read and write. The sight of a small child bossing around a robot is distressing, but it’s nothing that a bit of parental guidance can’t fix.
The future of voice assistants
Only time will tell whether they will end up causing more harm or good at home or in the workplace. One thing is certain, however, they will change the way that we interact, write, read, and search for information, and the infrastructure of the internet could be forced to evolve as a result.