The Future of Voice-Activated Product Design and Why it Matters to Companies

The Future of Voice-Activated Product Design and Why it Matters to Companies

Voice activation, in the past, was a product of sci-fi imagination; today a person’s voice is like magic to make machines work. As voice-activated product design advances and improves, consumers will come to understand the ease and convenience of these devices. When that happens, it means they are more apt to use them. This all bodes very well for companies that make the investment in voice-activated products.

Activating voice-activation


Long before “Alexa” arrived, there was “Audrey,” a huge machine created by Bell Labs in 1952 that could recognize (with more than 90 percent accuracy) the numbers 1 to 9 spoken by a single voice. Fast forward to 2015 when TechCrunch admits, “Voice recognition gets freakishly good” and states performance improvements “are in part being driven by deep learning approaches combined with massive data sets.”


Therein lies the true magic behind voice-activated product design. It goes beyond just accurately listening. It’s about collecting valuable data to deliver and meet the expectations of the consumer. Research shows this to be an incredible opportunity for companies because 1 in 5 customers made purchases via voice through a home assistant last year and this practice is expected to rise by more than 30 percent in 2018. Smart appliances (like thermostats) and wearables are also increasing in demand.


Data is the difference in voice-activated product design


When companies gather data via voice-activated products, the ability to grow the business increases dramatically. It’s possible to generate new revenue streams, improve margins, grow the brand, push innovation and improve the customer’s overall experience.


Of course, it may be easy to see the impact on the bottom line when consumers simply ask in-home devices – like Amazon’s Echo powered by Alexa or Apple’s HomePod powered by Siri – to make a purchase. But the impact goes beyond retail; other companies and services can also reap the benefits from collecting data that ultimately increases commerce.


With voice-activated products it is possible to create an eco-system that changes experiences. For example, at a restaurant or coffee shop, voice starts to replace touchscreens to improve the consumer experience and operational efficiency. At hotels, guests can tell in-room controls to turn on lights or control the temperature. In shopping malls and at theme parks, consumers with a wearable device can go hands-free using voice activation to ask which store is less crowded or which rides have the shortest wait time. The interaction becomes more natural. Businesses can then be proactive and drive consumers to specific stores or attractions. Data gathered from the same devices monitors traffic patterns and shows routes that are less crowded, which also makes the experience more enjoyable and personalized. Research shows consumers spend more when they receive personalized experiences.


Personalizing the voice-activated product


As consumers become more comfortable with voice-activated products, they will come to expect them more in a variety of places including stores, entertainment venues, the hospitality industry and residential housing (such as condominium complexes). What works for one business, however, will not necessarily work best for every other business. It’s an oxymoronic concept to pick a generic off-the-shelf product to personalize an experience.


That is why it is important for businesses looking to reap the rewards of voice-activated products to invest in a design that is customized to fit the needs of their unique customer. In doing so, it’s possible to get the outcome the business hopes to achieve or the experience they wish to deliver. Plus, the data you gather belongs to you, not a third party. This provides ultimate control over how to use it to best benefit your bottom line.


Look, Amazon wasn’t initially in the business of product design. They started out as a retailer. Today, when you hear the name Alexa, don’t you immediately associate it with the company and all the convenience — everything from playing your favorite song to ordering take-out food — that comes with that company’s custom device?


At Surfaceink, we have put a stake in the ground around audio and voice as a new trend in the marketplace. Our best in class team knows how to successfully execute projects and we get excited about all the ways individual organizations can use voice-activation to enhance experiences for their customers. If you’re looking for ways to improve your brand, be more innovative and ultimately increase revenue, let’s have a conversation about how Surfaceink can help get you there.

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Eric Bauswell

Founder and CEO

Eric began his career designing tractor mowers for Textron before landing in Silicon Valley where he was motivated by the challenge of fast-paced and industry leading design at Apple. As surfaceink grew, Eric expanded surfaceink to develop products for Palm, Flextronics, and Dell to name a few. He continues to be motivated by the creative challenges from Fortune 100 companies and emerging high-tech startups.


Chris Whittall

Director of Industrial Design

Chris works to ensure that client goals are realized through attractive and innovative design solutions. With over 20 years of experience as an industrial designer, Chris enjoys transforming complex technical challenges into beautiful and intuitive product solutions that deliver solid business results. Before joining surfaceink, Chris worked at Speck Design, Whipsaw, HP, Montgomery Pfeifer and GVO. Chris holds 45 U.S. design patents, and his work has been recognized by IDEA, Red Dot, Spark, IF, Chicago Athenaeum and Popular Mechanics.


Geoff Chatterton

Vice President of Software Engineering

Geoff is surfaceink’s VP of Software, and he loves seeing his award-winning products, including an Emmy and three times Best of CES, in the hands of millions of people around the world. With a focus on creating cutting-edge consumer experiences, his career has spanned 20 years across a mix of successful startups and top tier established companies including Apple, Dell, and PayPal. A recognized industry innovator, Geoff earned his undergraduate degree from MIT and has over 80 patents issued or pending.