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New report tackles tough questions on voice and AI

When it comes to voice technology and conversational AI, there's been a lot of talk, and a lot of speculation. There’s no denying that voice offers compelling advantages over its predecessors including the mouse, keyboard and touch screen – especially when it comes to accessibility and inclusion. For instance, Microsoft’s Seeing AI app is transforming the lives of the visually impaired.   

But still, there are lingering questions. Can voice technology live up to the hype? Will tech builders be able to overcome trust issues from leery consumers? How does Cortana stand out from the competition?

The Microsoft Market Intelligence team teamed up with Bing Ads Marketing to dig into these tough questions and others to find out what consumers are saying. Here are three of our key findings:
  1. 80% of digital assistant users report being somewhat or very satisfied.

Even at this very early stage, respondents like using voice and are satisfied with their digital assistants.  They are using their digital assistants to perform small, uncomplicated tasks – the three most commonly cited tasks were searching for a quick fact, asking for directions and searching for a product/service. Similarly, with smart speakers, people are starting with the basics – the current top use of smart speakers is listening to music followed by a variety of home management activities.
  1. 41% of users report concerns around trust, privacy and passive listening.

We're at a crossroads where trust is the key to unlocking the full potential of voice-enabled technologies. But we’ve been at this juncture before. The early internet also posed challenges
as consumers, retailers and tech builders came together to create the internet we know today. Voice users report data security and passive listening as top concerns. It is now up to tech builders to create a secure conversational landscape where consumers feel safe enough to share PII (personally identifiable information) and transact. 
  1. Over half of respondents believe that digital assistants will help them make retail purchases within the next 5 years.

Consumers are – and always will be – drawn to speed and efficiency. vCommerce (eCommerce evolved to include voice) offers conveniences like never before. Physical limitations such as store hours, lines and cash disappear as consumers begin to shop in new ways. Report findings hint at a future filled with image shopping, retailer chatbots and digital assistants that proactively shop on our behalf.
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