Voice — The New Technology Frontier

I have been thinking about what’s the next big thing in technology since the time I was studying computer science engineering in college and trying to figure out which sub-sector should I specialize in — machine learning, web development, computer networks, mobile development or data analytics, and which language should I learn — Java, C, C#, Python, etc.

My view since then has been broadened. Few landmark developments in consumer technology get me thinking like nothing else because of the plethora of use-cases and applications they opened up. First was the introduction of Apple I and II with ‘the monitor as we know it’ and the mouse by Steve Wozniak. Second was the introduction of the internet, which gave rise to the dot com boom. Third was the introduction of smartphones with the first ever iPhone introduced by Steve Jobs.

What’s most interesting about these three developments was the large powerhouse tech companies that sprouted with these developments — Microsoft and Apple with the personal computer, Google, Amazon and PayPal with the internet, and proliferation of Facebook, Snap, Twitter, Uber with the introduction of smartphones. This means that to replicate the success of any of these companies, we would need a fourth iconic wave of disruptive technological change.

I think the next set of tech powerhouses will come from the wave of voice interfaces. This clearly involves AI, machine learning and cutting edge hardware innovation. I believe that besides the hype about home assistants, machine learning and voice recognition hardware, the technology is still underrated. I say that because of two reasons: One, a surprising large number of people are still reluctant to adopt a home assistant as they don’t realize how much time it will save and how many clicks and swipes they take to perform an action on their smartphones. Two, a surprising low number of entrepreneurs are failing to look at voice-interface as a ‘hot’ sector, as they are instead focusing on autonomous vehicles, blockchain, VR, AR, fintech as the next wave. None of these innovations are going to change our behaviour so soon and so radically as voice-interfaces.

Think about never using hands to play a song, check weather, check time, call a cab or read books. This part is already executed by the Big Tech. Now think about never having to write a code, as was demonstrated by IronMan while building his ‘iron’ suit. Think about never having to write notes in a meeting. Think about never having to look at GPS while driving a car. Think about never having to switch lights on/off and never having to open/lock doors. These are truly radical changes.

Some companies are solely relying on the voice-wave for long-term strategies including Intel, who is solely focusing on voice-recognition-optimized processors and Google and Amazon who are focusing on smart assistants. The question- who will be the next set of entrepreneurs who will bask in the opportunity of riding with the audio-wave and build the next tech-powerhouses, besides the current Big-tech.