Users gain a voice with NLI

There’s no denying that Apple’s Siri technology has brought the benefits of natural language interaction (NLI) to a much broader market.

But what do Siri users actually use the technology for?

US research firm Park Associates has conducted an interesting survey of users of the iPhone 4S, the first Apple device to come with the Siri voice-activated assistant.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it finds that Siri usage tends to mirror how people use their iPhone. Using the assistant to make phone calls and send text messages are the top applications. Roughly a third of 4S owners use Siri to place phone calls, send text messages, or look up information daily or almost daily.

Overall, the survey finds that Siri is “clearly a hit” among the user base – although, of course, one has to remember that, by definition, these people are early adopters as the iPhone 4S was only launched in October 2011.

So, what is next – will NLI technology such as Apple’s Siri and Artificial Solutions’ Teneo accelerate the adoption of voice-activated assistants on a broader range of consumer devices?

Well, many pundits argue that this will be the case and to underline the point, Apple is already rumored to be developing a TV with Siri technology.

This raises the question of whether the emergence of NLI, will, as many industry watchers predict, usher in a new generation of voice-driven apps covering a wide range of consumer needs. One of the defining factors on whether this new interface will truly take off as predicted depends on how intelligent and capable it turns out to be. Speech recognition software has existed for many years – you can ask your mobile to phone home, instruct your car to change the radio station and even use speech recognition technology for niche professional applications – transcribing physicians’ patient notes for example is a classic. But to be honest, it has not become widely adopted. So why is this?

I think what is really needed is a technology that allows consumers to interact with their consumer electronics in a conversational, natural language way, for it to respond intelligently and for it to be capable of actioning a user’s instructions. However, for it to be able to do this, it needs that intelligent component – in short, in needs the ability to act in a human-like manner.

That’s where NLI technology comes in.

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