Smart Speakers and Consumers Comfort with AI
AI is an exciting but nebulous idea. However, so far, most of its impact has been felt through industrial and enterprise AI applications.
Consumer AI use, though, is growing. People are embracing AI technology such as smart speakers, but only insofar as they can recognize and trust its benefits.
To this point, Google exercises a massive impact on the lives of billions – and is currently investing $30B per year into AI development.
Data collected over the past couple of years indicates the way people use and feel about smart speakers as household items:
- 24% of US households own a smart speaker as of November, a 22% increase from the beginning of 2018. (Neilsen, 2018)
- 81% of people use their devices for voice command functions (Neilsen, 2018)
- 77% of people use their AI devices to play music or podcasts (Clutch, 2019)
- 42% of people referred to their smart speakers as essential (National Public Media, 2017)
It’s clear that people enjoy the convenience and functionality of smart speakers. It’s less clear whether peoples’ enthusiasm will transfer to other forms of AI.
Even less obvious is whether people realize or consider that every query made to Alexa, Google Home, or Siri is an interaction with an evolving AI project.
Businesses can use this article to learn how consumers interact with and perceive AI through the lens of smart speakers.
Virtual Assistants Increasing in Popularity, But Still Not Pervasive
The use of virtual assistants is both increasing and increasingly diverse. People use these tools to make their lives easier and to simplify common tasks.
People also use their smart speaker as true digital assistants – they serve as effective methods to:
- Gather weather and traffic updates
- Ask for factual information or clarifications
- Chat with their voice assistant for fun
Users are comfortable with AI responding to them, which signals a growing level of trust in AI – or a willingness to be vulnerable to its actions.
Allowing AI to cultivate facts also indicates that users are willing to cede a portion of their critical thinking to the enhanced capabilities of machine learning.
How is AI Perceived by Consumers?
People regard AI with a mix of doubt and excitement.
Neilsen’s research shows that 60% of people interact with a virtual assistant just for fun, which means that there is still a good deal of fascination with AI technology itself. That’d be like turning on a computer to see the Apple or Dell Logo pop up.
Consumer doubts temper the enthusiasm of businesses, though. According to a survey by Genpact, data security is a major concern with AI.
People want to protect their personal data, and feel like advanced technology with the ability to listen and respond to them may have abilities to collect information they don’t want to share.
Consumers also are increasingly aware that technology platforms serve as “24/7 focus groups,” and are resistant to delivering their personal data to companies who would leverage their privacy for profit.
AI Will Grow to Match Users’ Comfort
AI is designed to recognize patterns and adapt. Machine learning both responds to and anticipates users’ behavior in order to deliver a rewarding and one-of-a-kind experience.
The more comfortable people are with smart devices, the more these devices will learn, and so the more optimized they become. This arc of ever-improving performance is expected to drive adoption.
In fact, it’s been estimated that by 2020, 30% of consumer browsing sessions will occur through voice-activated technology.
Before people will embrace AI, they must first observe its benefits, according to Ellen Enkel, professor of innovation management at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
“Operational safety and data security are decisive factors in getting people to trust technology. Since AI-empowered technology is based on the delegation of control, it will not be trusted if it is flawed,” said Enkel.
Negative impacts are more visible than positive, so AI must function perfectly to assure users of their safety. The limitations of the automation must also be clearly defined to help people feel at ease.
“The interaction should not make people feel like they’re being monitored, but rather, assisted,” Enkel concluded.
As exemplified by smart speakers, consumers have begun an AI-assisted journey that allows for easy traveling but unknown pathways.
Consumers Are Warming to AI, Opening Engagement Opportunities for Businesses
People adore their smart speakers and this acceptance is paving the way for new AI development.
As people grow more comfortable with using their AI-powered devices to accomplish daily tasks, the more they will trust the technology for more complex uses, such as controlling home appliances.
If the future of AI is to be realized as “smart systems” that automate complex tasks and can be commanded to our discretion, businesses should be prepared to develop AI applications to engage with their customers – for example, developing an app that is compatible with Google Assistant or Alexa.
As people assign greater value to these smart devices, the role of AI will become more established in people’s lives and how businesses can interact with customers.