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Google’s Voice Search & AI Updates: What You Should Know + Insights

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“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

If you’re familiar with this line from the epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, then you’re experiencing a sense of doom or anxiety right now.

Not all artificial intelligence or robots are like HAL. Think of KITT from Knight Rider, Cortana from the Halo series, classic R2D2, the human-like android Data from Star Trek, WALL-E, and even IBM’s Watson.

Now hear us out. As artificial intelligence technology improves, the accuracy and speed at which voice search assistants like Google Home or Amazon Alexa respond will increase. Let’s get started as we explain the basics, the recent Google updates, and find out where it’s all going from here.

What is voice search?

Voice search is simply the act of speaking a query into a mobile device or computer with the hopes of a search engine coming up with the right answer in response. How you ask? Voice search devices use speech recognition and complex language processing systems to figure out what someone is saying. In other words, these apps recognize consonants and vowel patterns and compares them to a whole database of similar patterns. Much like a human brain, voice search has built-in neural networks that can “understand” what these patterns mean, turning them into phrases.

It’s so cool that people have been rushing to get their hands on voice search assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google. In fact, it’s estimated that 50% of all searches will be voice by 2020. (Source: Campaign Live)

What exactly happened?

The latest Google update showed the connection between voice search to local store purchases. Voice search now connects searchers to local store locations and provides online shoppers a physical “brick and mortar alternative.” The goal is to capitalize on the rapid growth of transactional voice search.

What are our thoughts on these features?

Voice search bridges the ecommerce gap by directing voice searchers to local stores. By connection voice searches to local ecommerce, Google is trying to bridge the rapidly growing gap between Google Assistant and Amazon Echo.

Voice searches present an opportunity for driving searchers to local businesses, thereby leading to their growth. Google wants to position Google Assistant as “the solution” that addresses this opportunity.

It remains to be seen if {Google Assistant + Location Extensions and Store Visits + More Accurate In-Store Measurement Tools} pack enough power to compete with Amazon’s Alexa and Prime.

I guess we’ll just have to find out.

Where are we now?

Search has evolved from typing something onto a keyboard, phone, or tablet and into friendly, conversational banter with your device of choice.

Whether you’re flirting with the idea of asking questions by talking to your device through “Ok Google” or you’ve been speaking with Alexa before it was considered cool, you’re one of many people worldwide who are familiarizing themselves with the notion of asking questions to a device through voice and getting a human-like response back.

You might be wondering an age old question or want to know how many movies Bill Murray has been in and how many of those have been directed by Wes Anderson. Yes, it can feel a bit obscure at first, but then again people are walking around talking out loud to themselves until you notice they have a Bluetooth device wrapped around their ear. With voice search, you can ask questions, turn on your favorite song, find out the weather, inquire about when your favorite brunch place opens, and even find out more useless facts about Bill Murray. (Editor’s Note: No facts about Bill Murray are useless.)

The Godlike Mind of Mr Bill Murray / Surian Soosay (Flickr)

As more people are treating voice search as the norm, the number of voice search assistants has increased. People are purchasing them for their homes, office, or for friends and family.

Morgan Stanley estimates that 11 million Amazon Echo devices have been sold from mid-2015 to December 2016. (Source: Seattle Times) According to a report from Voice Labs,  they estimate that Amazon Echo and Google Home will sell a combined 24 million units by the end of this year. (Source: 1 Red Drop)  If you want a deeper dive about the how this will affect retailers, check out our recent webinar, Search Without Screens!

Did you miss any of Google’s other updates? Get the full scoop on our blog to learn about Audience Innovations, Measurement Updates, and so much more!

(HAL Image Source: Wikipedia)