I clicked off the TV and immediately the family room was enveloped in complete darkness.
My husband and I giggled nervously at the anticipation of stubbed toes and bruised shins.
My son -- ever the show off -- was quick to help: "Ok Google, LUMOS."
Instantaneously, his cell phone lit up the room with a full-powered lamp.
Did he cast a magic spell (a la Harry Potter)?
Of course not. He simply used the power of his voice to control his smartphone.
And let's be clear: he didn't need to SEE his phone in order to make this work.
If you're like millions of consumer smartphone users, you too have come to love and rely on your ability to get help or information simply by asking your virtual assistant. Whether that's Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and/or Google. (Yes, some people have multiple devices!)
What once seemed like science fiction (or in my son's case, fantasy), is now a modern-day reality thanks to advances in artificial intelligence.
But what it is about our voices that make these advances so powerful? Let's take a look…
Our brains are wired to speak, not to write or type
In the past when I worked with clients who struggled to write content for their business websites, one of the questions I often started with was: Do you find it easier to talk through something with a friend or do you prefer to write down your thoughts in a journal?
Nine times out of ten, those who struggle to write told me they had no problem speaking their thoughts.
This is because the human brain has evolved over tens of thousands of years to communicate via speech.
About 100,000 years ago, our species developed the capacity for language. And any child, unless neurologically impaired or hearing impaired, will learn to talk. By the time a child is 10 months old, they've already learned how to recognize the speech sounds (or phonemes) of the language spoken by their caregivers; and by the time they're two, they're speaking simple sentences.
They do all of this mostly ON THEIR OWN. (We don't need to teach them how.)
Reading and writing on the other hand, require a teacher. And mastering the skill can take sometimes take a few decades.
In addition, a person who has trouble writing a grammatically correct sentence, may have zero trouble speaking that same sentence aloud. (And vice versa) This is because in the brain, writing and talking are independent systems, something discovered in 2015 by a team led by Johns Hopkins University cognitive scientist Brenda Rapp.
We (usually) speak faster than we can type
Most humans average about 150 words per minute when talking. Veteran typists hover at just 90 words per minute. How fast can you type?
And while speed isn't necessarily more important than accuracy, we do know that on average, it takes less time to give information verbally than it does to power up a device, open an app, and type and send that same message.
Here at Skillsai, we did our own testing and found that speech saves 70% (or more!) of your time over using a desktop computer or your phone to access information.
We can (usually) speak and work with our hands at the same time
As long as the motor skill you want to use is something that doesn't require higher cognitive function, speaking while doing shouldn't be an issue.
Have you ever held a conversation with a passenger in your car while you were driving? Talked on the phone while cooking dinner? Had a discussion at work while taking notes or arranging papers?
Of course you have. We all do it. Some of us better than others...
What this means for your business
As we develop better and faster AI, our ability to use our voices to access and create information also becomes easier.
And with the trend toward Calm Technology -- where the aim is to create tech that doesn't intrude on or distract us from our work and lives -- our ability to interact with our surroundings sans screens and keyboards becomes ever closer to reality.
When technology becomes invisible, we're better able to focus on the task at hand. We don't have to learn how to use it, it just works. And it works because it's natural.
Those of us who love and use our virtual assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant daily understand how useful these voice interfaces can be. Already, more than 20% of queries to Google are done via voice.
Voice can also extend the power of computing to people who are unable, for one reason or another, to use screens and keyboards.
That's why we're so focused on our SalesTalk product, and bringing the power of voice to your workplace.
Just as you might ask an administrative assistant to get you the latest sales data, you'll soon be able to ask your virtual assistant to do the same.
Sound useful? Get an up-close-and-personal taste when you join our beta test group. You learn more here.