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The growth of voice interaction has reached one fourth in 2018, probably marking a turning point in how we interact with the web. Here the growth of voice based payment in the US. Graph source: Business Insider

As 2018 draws to an end corks are popped and cocktail are mixed guess who people ask for advice most: Alexa!

According to Business Insider the number of questions asked to Alexa on cocktail recipes during these festivities has reached the hundreds of thousands in the US marking a turning point in using voice to communicate with the web.

It is not about voice-asking for cocktail recipes, it is about voice-interaction to access the web in general. As shown in the Business Insider graph there is a steady growth of voice interaction. Last year I bought a new television set and during the installation I was at loss because I did not know how to type in the various information the setting up procedure required. Then I discovered a tiny microphone icon on the remote and that was the key: all interaction was voice based. Since then I am talking with my television and although it still feels awkward to me my kids (no longer kids actually, they are in their twenties and thirties) consider this completely natural.

Voice seems to take the upper hand in interaction with machines, and although that seems strange to me, used to have a keyboard, it is probably the sensible way to go. Aren’t we talking with our fellow humans? Why not with machines?

Clearly this is made possible by the amazing progress in speech recognition that to a point is getting better than my speech recognition ability. My television set can understand with the same ease people talking in Italian, English, German and French (and very likely several more languages, those are the ones I tried).

Estimates number of smart appliances in US homes. Source: Mozilla (2017), Business Insider (estimates)

Au pair with this growth in speech understanding capabilities we are seeing a growing set of objects that can be controlled by Alexa and the likes.

According to Business Insider, home smart appliances have reached 400 million in US and are set to triple over the next 5 years. All these smart appliances can be controlled by voice activated gateways like Alexa.

It looks like talking to our appliances will become the norm in the next decade and it may be a sure bet that by the following decade we will no longer use keyboards.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.