Get Used to Siri and Google Now: The World's Get Chattier

Tuesday Dec 27th 2016 by Pedro Hernandez
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Gartner predicts that a fifth of smartphone interactions will involve virtual personal assistants like Apple's Siri and Google Now in a few short years.

Thanks to virtual personal assistant (VPA) technologies like Apple's Siri and Google Now, the world's about to become a chattier place.

In a recent forecast from Gartner, the technology analyst firm predicted that 20 percent of all user interactions with smartphones will take place with VPAs by 2019. Essentially, users will call out to Siri or Google Now instead of tapping an app one out of every five times they to look up research a fact, hail an Uber ride or perform other tasks.

VPAs are also getting ready to enter the workforce, said Gartner research director Jessica Ekholm. "VPAs' usage is bound to accelerate as they add many new features, including integration for business services, further language support and appear across more devices," she said in a statement.

Gartner polled over 3,000 consumers in the U.S., U.K. and China. In the past three months, 42 percent of Americans and 32 percent of respondents in the U.K. reported that they used VPAs on their smartphones; more than a third said (37 percent) in those countries said they use VPAs at least once a day.

Siri has an edge, with 54 percent of both those in the U.S. and the U.K. saying that they used Apple's assistant in the past three months. Google Now trails with a still-healthy 48 percent in the U.S. and 41 percent in the U.K.

Not all VPAs are necessarily of the voice-enabled variety, noted the research group. In China, "Tencent's WeChat generates over $1.1 billion in revenue by offering its 440 million users an all-in-one approach, letting them pay their bills, hail cabs and order products with a text," noted Gartner.

In the U.S., Facebook is connecting businesses with consumers using its Messenger app and bots. Early supporters include Bank of America, Kayak, and of course, Uber. Messenger boasts over a billion users, according to the social media giant.

Nonetheless, voice- and gesture-based interfaces become more prevalent in the coming years. Gartner expects 2 billion devices, including IoT devices, to feature zero-touch user interfaces.

"Interactions will move away from touchscreens and will increasingly make use of voice, ambient technology, biometrics, movement and gestures," remarked Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner. "In this situation, apps using contextual information will become a crucial factor in user acceptance, as a voice-driven system's usability increases dramatically according to how much it knows about the user's surrounding environment."

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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