23 Juni, 2017

China and the Future of Voice Technology

Mayan Speak Easy

When it comes to voice technology, China is leading the way. For example, 67% of Chinese consumers surveyed in our new global “Speak Easy” report already use it to get information on products, compared to 53% globally. 43% in China use it to play audio books versus 22% globally.

Partly because it’s easier to speak than to type characters, local brands such as Xiaomi, Baidu and Xunfei have all developed voice-assistance services and Chinese users are inclined to expect human-like qualities from these.

We think this is just the beginning.

By Lo SheungYan, Chairman of JWT APAC Creative Council. 

At the Cannes Festival of Creativity this year, I presented two ideas for how brands can harness this trend and build a stronger emotional connection with consumers.

Voice bots have been described as digital butlers. Based on what you’ve asked before, they learn your likes and dislikes, track your behavior and can help manage your life. So how about a voice bot that is literally a butler?

We partnered with a client, an international hotel chain, on an idea for a digital butler, a device in your hotel room that you can ask questions such as: Can you recommend a show for this evening? Are there tickets available for this evening’s basketball game? You can also ask your digital butler to get someone to pick up the laundry or order room service.

Voice is exciting because it is inherently more natural than using a mouse or a touch screen. Our “Speak Easy” report found that speech is less taxing on the mind than typing. It also fosters a stronger connection with the brand, assuming the transaction goes smoothly.

Our second idea is for a digital doctor. In China, if your child has a fever, you can spend up to four hours waiting at the clinic or hospital to see an actual doctor. When you finally get to see one, chances are the doctor will prescribe the same medicine you could have given your child at home!

What if you had a voice bot that asked you a series of questions to determine if you should give your child fever medicine? That could quickly help your child feel more comfortable, bring down the fever, and maybe even save a visit to the doctor. And if you don’t have the drug in your medicine cabinet at home, maybe the voice bot could also arrange for delivery.

Ultimately, the voice bot could maybe connect you to a network of actual doctors on duty to answer your questions.

While these ideas are still conceptual, the technology already exists. Voice technology is now as accurate as human speech recognition.

If you haven’t already started thinking about how voice technology can work for your brand, you’d better start. As a practical concept, it’s ready for prime time.

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