The Future Begins Today: How Voice-Enabled Features Can Help Your Mobile Apps Achieve Dizzying Success
In sci-fi movies, people often interact with different kinds of talking devices. Technological progress is moving fast, especially for smartphones, because they are always at hand, however, the reality is often far more amazing than any fiction.
In our new article, we will tell you about advantages and prospects of voice-enabled features, give examples of industries where they can be used effectively, as well as answer the question whether Voice can completely replace Touch?
This statistic displays the frequency with which smartphone owners use voice-enabled technology in the United States in 2017. A total of 49 percent of U.S. smartphone owners reported using voice tech at least once a week.
The phone has long ceased to be simply a device to call and send SMS, nowadays it is a handy tool for business, to neglect which is rather unwise. Every year, mobile devices become more powerful and functional.
On 9 January 2007, there was an event that became a breakthrough in the mobile industry – Apple released the first iPhone Touch. Three years later, Google added the option of personalized speech recognition in Voice Search to Android phones. The introduction of the voice interface has opened up great opportunities for developers, users and, of course, business.
According to Skyword specialists, by 2019 the speech recognition market will be an industry worth $ 601 million.
Voice-enabled tools are becoming more and more advanced each year.
In the past, developers had to integrate their own solutions for text-to-speech conversion. If we compare that situation with today, we will note that previously there were a number of drawbacks:
- higher implementation costs;
- longer development;
- apps were overloaded.
Starting with iOS7, Apple has integrated an API that allows developers to easily implement voice-enabled features in their iOS apps. API text-to-speech, in its turn, has significantly simplified the life of both developers and customers. Currently, Apple, Google, and Microsoft offer direct voice recognition in text-to-speech conversion mode in their mobile operating systems.
Benefits of Using Voice in a Mobile App
To enter a text or any navigation using Touch requires a greater cognitive load than using voice commands that help multitask, thus saving your time.
For example, you need to select one or more items from a long list, but you don’t want to read it all. Instead of entering keywords or searching long for necessary items on the screen of your mobile device, you can simply use a voice command, saving yourself any unnecessary actions.
Your time is the most precious resource.
Voice commands can help users quickly search and write e-mails, take notes, schedule appointments, voice a received message and much more. And all this can be done in motion.
Touch often provides a referral interaction with the device, while using a voice-enabled feature allows you to describe objects more comprehensively in terms of their functions and characteristics.
Using a voice interface helps avoid errors with modality, which ensures a more convenient interaction with a mobile app
- Live emotions
People experience life through their feelings, by their nature, people lean towards real-life communication. If, in addition to cool and convenient functions, a person hears a pleasant voice, it is a plus. When developing a mobile app with voice-enabled features, you can add, for example, several variants of voices (including different languages).
A voice-enabled feature can entertain and delight your users.
A well-known example of it: voices of actors who did a voice-over of Star Wars heroes were added to Yandex.Navigator app. Your trip will be fun because you can get directions from Darth Vader or Master Yoda!
- Wide horizon
It’s no secret to anyone that navigation on a mobile device is not as convenient as on a computer or laptop. This is primarily due to the fact that the device itself is physically smaller, so is its screen.
The use of voice-enabled features can significantly expand the boundaries of your mobile app, and a small device screen won’t be a limitation.
Why Voice-enabled Features?
Among other things, the quality of apps is constantly improving. If you are in a noisy room, then, for example, a host voice recognition function can easily help you solve a given task.
Voice and Artificial Intelligence
Development of voice-enabled features runs parallel to the evolution of artificial intelligence, including mobile apps. Progress is moving rapidly, soon apps will be able to predict user needs, and voice interface will become one of the simplest and most convenient tools for interaction.
Voice interface will help achieve amazing results!
Just imagine that in the near future, your mobile app with voice interface will be able to analyze not only data but also context and intonation of users, so you can improve your sales by providing users with what they really want.
Scope of Applications for Voice-Enabled Features
Both physicians and patients can benefit from using voice-enabled features in apps related to healthcare. Some diseases impair physical activity, so voice commands can greatly improve the lives of such patients.
Additionally, the use of voice-enabled features leads to lower fatigue. It should also be noted that the development of voice-enabled technology can make the lives of disabled people much easier.
- Social networks
If you want to build an app for social networks or create your own social network, then voice-enabled features are more than relevant. They will allow your users to communicate and interact with each other in almost any situation.
- Learning languages
Some languages are not only hard to understanding but also to pronounce. Voice-enabled features facilitate the learning of new languages greatly. By using voice-enabled features in your mobile app, you can not only read a phrase but also listen to the way it should be pronounced.
A voice-enabled feature is an excellent helping hand in travel!
Even if, for some reason, you fail to pronounce the phrase right, you can launch a mobile app on your phone that will voice the relevant information for your companion. Thus, during travel or business trips, you can easily get along with people from different countries.
We’ve given examples of only a few applications where voice-enabled features are successfully used today in the development of mobile apps, in fact, their number is much higher. Have you got an idea? Contact the team of highly-skilled professional.
Integration of Speech Into a Mobile App
Development of voice-enabled features is based on two elements:
- Text to Speech Synthesizer (TTS)
Examples of use: reading a text at the user’s request and notification.
- Speech Recognition Technology
Examples of use: dictating a message and voice commands to an app.
At first glance, the task seems extremely simple – to recognize phonetic sounds pronounced in a certain sequence, but in practice, everything is much more complicated.
This is due to various kinds of linguistic and vocalization subtleties; people take them for granted when interpreting a written text. Besides, sometimes live speech can have such nuances like accent, stammering, sneezing, etc. In fact, the task requires a detailed study of methods for processing a natural language and digital signal processing.
To develop a decent speech algorithm from scratch, you will need tens of thousands of hours for programming, so it is better to use one of several existing tools. Currently, the market offers a number of technologies for apps with speech support.
Before you choose your voice SDK, we suggest you select a development model:
In this case, automatic speech recognition (ASR) or text-to-speech (TTS) conversion occurs in the cloud.
This gives a significant advantage in terms of speed and accuracy and is one of the most frequently used modes.
On the one hand, the app constantly requires an Internet connection. On the other hand, your mobile app takes up considerably less space.
With embedded mobile speech recognition or TTS, the entire process is performed locally on a mobile device.
With a fully embedded voice function, the mobile app can work in autonomous mode, but it takes up more space.
For example, TTS engines use a database of pre-recorded voice audio, with a clip for each possible syllable.
Using a mobile app in offline mode includes all these clips into your app.
Developers in IVONA Software, for example, can download voice data for American English (Kendra) or British English (Amy) – the data volume is approximately 150 MB.
One of the advantages of such systems is that they are not affected by the latency associated with sending and receiving information from the server.
Popular Speech Libraries
Nuance is perhaps the most popular provider of voice libraries for mobile apps. Today, one of the most famous apps for converting speech is Dragon Anywhere. The app needs a wireless connection to recognize your speech by matching its pattern on the Internet, and then Dragon Anywhere displays your text with interpretation in the main window.
OpenEars is an autonomous text-to-speech and speech-to-text library by Opensource; it supports Spanish and English. Like other autonomous libraries, OpenEars can significantly increase the size of your mobile app (more than 200 MB).
Nevertheless, developers can reduce the size of the app, getting rid of unused voices or framework functions. Thus, the size of the app can vary, depending on the number of used voices.
It is up to you to decide which of the libraries is best for your mobile app. It all depends on the goals and the budget. If you have no time to explore this issue by yourselves, then we suggest you consult qualified professionals.
Examples of Successful Implementation of Voice-enabled Features in Mobile Apps
The Kindle app was developed by IVONA Software, which was subsequently purchased by Amazon. Kindle has many convenient features, including the ability to convert text to speech, as well as voice-over translations. The app is perfect for people living a busy life and loving to multitask.
Currently, Kindle supports the following languages: English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese and Spanish.
- Google Voice Search
Since 2011, Google has introduced a speech recognition function not only on desktop computers but also on mobile devices, the voice control function is also supported on phones with the Android operating system.
In just a couple of years, Google managed to significantly improve its product, over time it learned to recognize not just short phrases (of 35-40 words), but also long continuous speech. Google Voice Search is specifically applied in Google Translate, it keeps evolving thanks to the use of the neural-net technology.
Forecast for the Development of Voice-enabled Features
By 2020, from 30 to 50% of all searches will be done with voice.
Can Voice Completely Replace Touch?
In ancient times, people handed down documented knowledge and information by means of picture writing; later, they used wedge writing, writing with feathers, pens, and pencils.
Currently, we type more often than we write, even more often we use Touch. There is a tendency that in the near future, people will simply use voice interface.
Despite all the advantages of using voice-enabled features, you should not be too opinionated and completely reject Touch, because sometimes it’s easier and more convenient to do something manually.
Touch can be optimal in the following situations:
- one-touch photo;
- mail sorting;
- a quick response to a message (for example, if a person is at the meeting and cannot give a voice command to the app);
- writing large documents. Here you need accuracy, people edit faster using their eyes;
- visual orientation on a page is easier and quicker,
- filling in logins and passwords (it is very problematic to express by voice all the nuances of a complex password, consisting of symbols, numbers, uppercase and uppercase letters).
Anyway, all great achievements take time. Don’t overload users with voice-enabled features, it’s best to add them gradually, by analyzing how popular they are and easy to use.
Umbrella IT suggests you approach the issue of creating a mobile app with voice-enabled features without excessive fanaticism. In our view, an optimal solution is to start with a number of voice-enabled features for basic functions of your app. This is an iterative process.
Speaking of voice-enabled features, we can draw an analogy with text. If your mobile app is overloaded with text, users will have a feeling that your entire app is one big instruction to an instruction. In most cases, the use of simple audio clips will bring much more profit than the use of the TTS engine, with long voice monologues.
Friendly reminder: if you need to use several keywords, this is a task for Keyword Spotting, which utilizes other algorithms, when you don’t need a speech recognition service.
The point is that during the speech recognition, all said words will be searched, while the search engine will try to find several selected keywords or phrases. Keyword Spotting is a simpler and less resource-intensive process.
The use of voice-enabled features can make your mobile apps more modern and functional, at the same time, there is no need to completely abandon Touch, a better solution would be to combine both technologies in your app.
Many people still use notepads or notebooks & they can sign a card by hand for a friend for example. The abundance of alternative tools makes life brighter and more versatile, bringing beauty and diversity of its own.
Touch will not become an anachronism of Voice.
We believe that Voice is a promising alternative for the Touch technology, which may become situational in the near future. Give users freedom of choice: use either Voice or Touch, depending on the tasks required. User experience is very helpful in improving voice-enabled features, the sky is the limit!
According to many experts, in the near future, there will be a significant increase in search results performed both with voice and text in SERP.
In Summary, Let’s Highlight the Key Advantages of Voice:
- time saving and multitasking;
- voice recognition;
- voice-to-text conversion;
- live emotions
- a variety of voices, including different languages.
As a small bonus, we offer you some tips to optimize your app with a voice search feature:
- collect statistics on the most frequent voice searches in your niche;
- include main questions and answers to them in your mobile app;
- work out the structure of your mobile app, so that users can get quick solutions when working with your app by using the voice feature;
- think over the content of your app and the structure of its responses to voice commands.
Voice-enabled features offer additional opportunities for branding.