Will Voice Control Eventually Make Keyboards Obsolete?
To answer the question posed above, Pindrop Solutions, a voice security and authentication firm, turned to the public to get their take—and the results were actually a little surprising. According to the company’s survey of more than 4,000 adults in the U.S., France, the U.K., and Germany, nearly half believe that keyboards will barely by used by 2023 as voice control technology continues to improve and integrate itself into products. Further, the report found that 63 percent are already using voice control services to interact with their devices and appliances, and another 53 percent plan to use their voice “even more” in within the next year.
As we’ve seen with the rise of the digital voice assistant over the past few years, there are a ton of use cases for voice control in the home and on the road. The survey found that 63 percent of consumers have used their voice-activated devices to help with cooking, 58 percent have used it to control other devices in their homes, and 52 percent have used their voice to order groceries. And with the future of voice in focus, another 56 percent said they plan to use voice-enabled services to book tickets to events or make restaurant reservations within the next five years—if they aren’t already doing so.
On the business side of things, previous research from Pindrop found that companies have some pretty ambitious goals when it comes to integrating voice services into their workflow. Just over two-thirds (68 percent) of businesses said they plan to use voice-activated assistants for the majority of customer service interactions, while nearly one-in-four said they plan to use them for all interactions.
“The last few years have seen early adopters rush to bring smart devices and speakers into their homes, normalizing a technology that was once seen with skepticism,” Vijay Balasubramaniyan, CEO and co-founder of Pindrop, said in a statement. “Today’s results prove this and also point towards a future where the way we engage with technology fundamentally shifts to a hands-free model. People can see the benefits it brings them, allowing them to simplify their lives and help battle the constant distractions handheld devices provide.”
But what about the crux of that initial question? Will the keyboard—the tool I’m actively using to write this article—become an ancient artifact within the next four to five years?
Frankly, I don’t see it happening, at least that quickly. Part of that has to do with the ease and comfort that the keyboard provides when writing copy. Sure, the spoken word occurs at a much faster clip than typing something out. But typing out words and phrases provides an opportunity to critically analyze the value of each word in a series, allowing the writer to consider the implications, make adjustments on the fly, and have a deeper connection with the finished copy. To me, as the faster method of input, the spoken word feels like a way to just breeze through your thoughts.
My philosophical/psychological take aside, there’s real technological reasoning why I think the keyboard will remain a critical component of the text input method for some time. Text-to-speech technology, though vastly improved from even just a few years ago, is still not accurate enough to become the primary input method. A recent study of the various voice assistants on the market showed that a majority are just barely breaking 80 percent success rates in terms of answering users’ questions accurately and fully. And, sure, there are companies actively working to improve the speech recognition gap that exists. But, in my opinion, the only way that voice technology will ever make a keyboard obsolete is if companies can consistently, over a long period of time prove that the accuracy rate is a true 100 percent. Otherwise, what’s the point?