The rise and rise (and future) of voice

Tim Tuttle, CEO of MindMeld, talks about voice adoption and the future.

Of the many, many, many surprising things to have happened over the last couple of years, the rise of voice-based interfaces is one of the more pleasant things. Siri might have been the frontrunner for the modern voice assistant, but Amazon’s Alexa was the ubiquitous star of this year’s CES. VoiceLabs predicts that 24.5 million voice-first devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home will ship in 2017, more than triple last year’s figure.

“It’s no surprise that Google and Amazon are focusing heavily on voice search and natural language going forward,” says Tim Tuttle, founder and CEO at MindMeld, “when you consider that in 2015 alone, voice search rose from ‘statistical zero’ to make up 10% of all searches globally - that’s an estimated 50 billion searches per month.”

Founded in 2011 and formerly known as Expect Labs, San Francisco-based MindMeld offers companies the ability to embed voice commands within their applications and services, and has the company was listed on CB Insights’ AI 100 list and described by The Verge as “Siri on Steroids”.

MindMeld and voice services such as Viv and Siri - before they were acquired by Samsung and Apple respectively – could have existed before or even during the first boom. Tuttle explains how speech recognition has been touted at the future of computing for decades, but always been out of reach.

“This all began to change in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Fuelled by massive amounts of data from exploding mobile internet usage, supervised learning began to deliver surprisingly promising results. Long-standing AI research challenges such as speech recognition and machine translation began to see leaps in accuracy, which dwarfed all improvements made over the previous decades combined.”

“As a result of these advances in machine learning, virtual assistants, which had a notoriously hit-or-miss track record in their early years, started to see significant widespread adoption for the first time.”


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