Headspace Product VP on Voice Technology (Part 2)

When you think about the devices that you use every day, voice technology now plays a role in some form. In just a few short years, voice-enabled tech is no longer isolated to a few product categories. Even by today’s rapid innovation standards, voice products are growing at a phenomenal rate. Furthermore, the adoption rate doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. What are the factors driving the voice sensation that we’re living in? Here are two big reasons.

Speed & Responsiveness.

Within the past five years, the capabilities of voice technology continue to expand. To quote Jeff Bezos: “Let me give you the pain upfront; your target for latency is one second.” For example, users can speak commands and receive nearly instant results or feedback from voice-enabled devices. In addition, users are able to issue a greater variety of commands and request more information than previously available with early voice devices.

Accuracy & Tech Maturity.

This may seem trivial, but there’s a huge difference between 95 and 99 percent accuracy. In other words, people won’t hesitate to use a product or service if it will work virtually every time. To quote Andrew Ng:

“As speech recognition accuracy goes from 95 to 99 percent, all of us will go from barely using it today to using it all the time. Most people underestimate the difference between 95 and 99 percent accuracy – 99 percent is a gamechanger.”

The combination of greater speed and accuracy with voice technology has made it ubiquitous in everything we do.

As a result, you’re probably asking – where won’t I find voice-enabled tech? If you look at the core strategies in place with tech giants, the answer is they want it to be everywhere.

  • “…our strategy is, we want Alexa everywhere.” (Steve Rabuchin, Amazon Alexa Voice VP)
  • “…ambient assistance…” (Google Assistant overview)
  • “unbound…with users wherever and whenever they need her.” (Microsoft Cortana overview)

In summary, you only need to look at units sold for voice-enabled speakers to see the effects of voice technology on everyday life. For example, consumers purchased around 100 million smart speakers in 2018. By 2020, this number will increase to over 225 million. Furthermore, this technology is not isolated to our smartphones or tablets (Siri, Cortana, Alexa, etc.). We’re seeing voice-enabled products in home appliances, car infotainment systems and more. Google alone has lent its services to the development of more than 1,500 voice-enabled products.

Simply put, every product manager needs understand (and ultimately embrace) the power of voice in their design-thinking process.


Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3

About the speaker
Randhir Vieira Member

Randhir Vieira is the VP of Product at Headspace - leading the product team to achieve the organization’s mission of improving health and happiness around the world. Prior to Headspace, Randhir was the Chief Customer Officer at Mindflash, a leading cloud-based Learning Management System. He was also the VP of Product and Customer Care at Eyefi - and Senior Product Director at Yahoo.

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