Mobile Voice Raises the Bar

With the advance of mobile applications and services and loads of made-for-mobile destinations and content, mobile does much more than allow people easy and instant access to the information they want, the way they want it. Mobile is fast becoming the lens through which we interact with the world around us.

Consumers reach to connected devices-phones, smartphones, and now tablets-to manage their lives, engage with brands, transfer money, and even pray. Because we can do more with our devices and because our devices don't let us down, we are endowing them with new importance and traits.

Consumers have come to see their mobile devices-packed with their personal contacts, photos, and the timeline/soundtrack of their lives-as an extension of themselves. But recent advances in voice recognition, artificial intelligence, and natural language understanding now make it possible and plausible for consumers to think of their mobile devices as "almost human."

Although voice computing dates back decades, the last year has seen voice take off. This is thanks to the arrival of Siri, the virtual personal assistant on the Apple iPhone 4S powered by speech recognition from Nuance Communications, Inc.

It's no coincidence the iPhone 4S announcement purposely highlighted Siri and the pivotal role it plays in Apple's bigger ambitions to deliver suggestions, recommendations, and assistance to iPhone owners. Siri helps people make calls, send text messages or email, schedule meetings and reminders, make notes, search the internet, find local businesses, and get directions. All people have to do is grant Siri access to the personal data and details that make up their digital lives.

At one level, Siri is a smart personal assistant, a Sherpa who helps guide us through our daily journey. At a more fundamental level, Siri is the game changer that has raised consumers' awareness of the power and simplicity of voice for getting instant answers and advice.

Put another way, it's not enough to have a mobile-optimized website or a mobile app. The advance of Siri and services like it mean companies will have to harness natural language understanding and voice recognition to deliver their customers information, entertainment, advice, customer service--the works.
Bill Meisel--founder of TMA Associates--suggests that the rise of personal smart assistants such as Siri turns up the pressure on all companies everywhere to follow suit. In an interview with my own MobileGroove, Meisel said, "A lot of enterprises are going to realize they need a smart [mobile] personal assistant-and that people are going to expect that."

A great place to start is customer service. It's here that voice recognition can markedly improve the experience for everyone involved. The customer has an issue or a special request? Then let him speak it into your app or website and get immediate results. After all, surveys show companies can't build lasting loyalty by delighting the customer. But they can win-and keep-customers by reducing the effort and removing friction from customer service.

Nuance Communications needs little convincing. Sensing a huge opportunity, the company is gearing up to take the wraps off Nina, a world-first, one-stop solution that equips companies with everything they need to voice-enable mobile apps.

From the software development kit to the Nina Cloud, which offers access to Nuance's speech recognition, text-to-speech, voice biometrics, and natural language understanding technologies and capabilities, companies can build and manage apps their customers will appreciate. Specifically, Nina makes it easy to add a smart virtual assistant to an existing mobile app, which greatly enhances the self-service experience for today's mobile customers.

Why? Because voice removes the obstacles, hassles, and heavy lifting around inputting information, repeating information, and accessing information.
The explosion of mobile voice services and the advance of smart mobile voice assistants are already having significant influence on how consumers interact with companies. Moving forward, speech recognition and natural language understanding are poised to be an even more powerful combination, adding another component to the toolbox of capabilities that companies will need to meet and exceed consumer expectations for information and service.