Last week the Pew Research Center published survey results regarding attitudes on future technologies within the Unites States (view study). The study uncovered that 59% of Americans are optimistic that technological advances over the next 50 years will make life in the future better. The survey also asked a series of questions to uncover perceptions towards specific technologies, such as drones, robots, DNA alternation and laboratory grown meat (spoiler: Americans are not too fond of the latter… neither am I).
The study, however, didn’t cover such mundane topics like how we will manage our finances, request service for our smartphone, or book an airline ticket. Although this might not be top of mind for many science fiction enthusiasts, I believe that we’re on the cusp of a profound, and exciting, transformation in how we as humans interact with the companies that we do business with; the financial institutions, telecom providers, airlines, retail organizations, and others.. This technology transformation will, in my opinion, have a much more profound and positive impact on our daily lives than many of the technologies covered in the Pew Research study. What’s most remarkable is that, unlike teleportation, the technologies that I am referring to exist today and have already started permeating real-world applications.
So what does the future of consumer interactions look like? Have a look at the following video, just published by Nuance, which gives an idea of where we are headed as consumers:
You’ll notice that one of the key ideas that the video conveys is that our interactions with companies, in this case a telco, a pharmacy and an airline, will become more human. Although the video pushes the envelope by showcasing what seems to be an omniscient assistant, there is no doubt in my mind that we are headed in this direction of a more human-like interaction with technology. By extension, our interaction with the organizations that we deal with on a daily basis will increasingly resemble this conversational, intelligent and efficient interaction. A few months ago, I wrote about the desire that consumers have for a more human experience. The research referenced in the blog post highlighted how we as consumers want to get things done via technology, due to the efficiency and convenience that only tech can provide. However, we also want that experience to be conversational and personalized. This is the great paradox of the 21st century, and a challenge for enterprises to deliver on a human-like experience delivered by computers.
Fortunately, the technology exists today to deliver on this expectation. Virtual assistants that are powered by natural language technology and that possess dialog management and contextual capabilities can deliver a human-like experience by replacing mouse clicks and screen taps with conversational chat or speech. With a virtual assistant, the interaction with technology and humans becomes so similar that we sometimes wonder if we are dealing with a human or a computer. This is one of the fascinating results of the Interaction Experience research that I referred to in my previous blog post; over a quarter of participants in the study believed they were interacting with a human, and another quarter were unsure. So really, how far are we from the vision portrayed in the video? I say we’re on the path to achieving that vision.
Today, virtual assistants are just beginning to permeate websites and mobile apps. Innovative firms such as Coca-Cola, USAA and Windstream have taken the leap and are delivering initial virtual assistant capabilities. I predict that with the continued advances in the technologies that underpin virtual assistants, over the next few years our interactions with the companies that we deal with will become increasingly conversational, increasingly intelligent and increasingly personalized. In other words, increasingly human.
As for 50 years from now, the time horizon elected by the Pew Research Center study, I wouldn’t dare make predictions as to specific new technologies that will transform our lives. But I do strongly believe that whatever changes are coming will be beneficial and will certainly make our lives richer than ever before.
To read more, take a look at the white paper on “Impact to Brand Perception of a Human-like Self-service Experience.”