The future of virtual assistants could lie in the metaverse

There is a smart speaker in a corner of half of British internet homes. Whether in pictures of the family and a coaster for a drink next to the couch, or between toasters, blenders and kitchen utensils, the expressions “Alexa”, “Hey Google” or “Hey Siri” are used to evoke household functions. .

When you consider that the popularity of smart speakers in the United States also mirrors that of the United States, it’s no wonder that the size of the global smart speaker market has been attributed to $6.42 billion in 2020, with projections to reach $61.87 billion by 2028. This growth may sound like music to the ears of tech giants around the world, but the market has been showing signs of slowing down lately. According to Voicebot.ai, the smart speaker market has declined from 42% and 32% annual growth between 2018 and 2020, respectively, to 3.4% and 4.6% since the start of the decade.

Similarly in the UK, growth was 136.5% from 2019 to 2020, but fell to less than a fifth of that (24.5%) from 2020 to 2021. Given this crisis, futuristic applied scientist Tom Cheesewirght tells WebMD. IT professional that the virtual assistant market has reached a ceiling in the current market.

“Two major things have happened to vocals that have taken a lot of the heat out of the market,” Cheesewright says. “First, these assistants have not proven to be a good application platform. There are a limited number of apps where speech makes sense and while there are some cool things you can do, it’s not the kind of common app platform that the smartphone or the PC has. application platform, but that leads to the second point, which is that people realize that voice is not appropriate. In many contexts, people don’t want to use speech as an interface because it’s going to disrupt your mental flow.

Despite these issues, he points to the widespread adoption of these devices and their intrinsic value is good. Although they are limited, there are still things that people love to do with them. Nevertheless, the collapse of the market could force manufacturers and customers to rethink the use of virtual assistants. As artificial intelligence (AI) and the metaverse gain traction, the technology may need to adapt to a very different technology landscape than when it first appeared on the scene.

Finding new uses for virtual assistants

As Cheesewright points out, the use of virtual assistants for consumers is limited to basic minutes, playing music, and turning lights on and off.

virtual assistants have more uses, and having a device in an area that can provide information with a simple question justifies the investment made in the industry over the past five years, emphasizes Joshua Kaiser, CEO of Tovie AI.

“The healthcare sector has embraced virtual assistants during the COVID-19 outbreak,” he says. “In 2019, Voicebot found that 7.5% of US adults had used a virtual assistant for a care need; by 2021, that figure has risen to 21%, and there has also been an increase in AI-driven conversational apps that help screen, triage, and diagnose people who may be infected with COVID-19.

“Healthcare is not the only service that has gone online during the pandemic and as a result, more and more companies are integrating virtual assistants to provide customers with a seamless online experience. This development has led to a growing trend in the conversational AI industry, especially personalized virtual assistants embedded in products, web applications and mobile apps.

The future could be meta

As Kaiser puts it, despite the fairly mundane use cases currently on the market, interaction with voice agents is a technology that will come into its own in the future.

Yes, it’s about time we mentioned that the Metaverse has the ability to change our lives in many ways – but some of the fundamental differences between the Metaverse and the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies that we now have are the interaction methods.

Output devices, such as keyboards and mice, will be obsolete in virtual worlds, allowing people to talk to agents as they travel through the environments they find themselves in.

“This year will be the year of metaverseness as giants like Meta, Baidu, Huyndai and LEGO take the field, and virtual assistants are likely to appear en masse,” says Kaiser. “It’s not just a choice of the entertainment industry, we can expect virtual offices for employees or customers in VR, populated with virtual characters.

“Going forward, I think all major developments in virtual assistants will be linked to trends in the metaverse and virtual characters. Emotion management in AI is one of the key trends of this year, as it allows us to make synthetic speech human, making virtual assistants sound more natural.”

Cheesewirght agrees, adding that virtual assistants will be an essential vehicle in which the metaverse will be delivered. “Voice empowers the user interface to make AR useful and not a flood of pop-ups or even trying to mimic the smartphone experience on glasses.

“There is going to be a shift where most people will spend ten hours a day in mixed reality. In this context, speech starts to become much more useful, both in a consumer context and in a professional context, because when your main interface is not a keyboard and mouse, and your personal AI is learning from you, you know, it can be of great help and even decisions take for you.

“Voice is a natural interface, and if you always have headphones or glasses on, you can have that subtle private conversation with your virtual assistant. I think the voice becomes much more important then. For example, there are now problems to overcome with virtual assistants, even with ten years of evolution in micro-arrays, interpretation and algorithms, there are still huge problems with understanding. But when the mic is physically connected to your head, clarity, understanding and usability should be much better.

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