Google’s Home, Amazon’s Alexa; How proficiently is AI evolving?

Submitted by Cigniti Technologies

Virtual Assistants and Voice-First Devices are trending through the news stories. With millions of units being sold, they are definitely one of the most sought-after tech toys for your home. Incidentally, Amazon Alexa has crossed over 10 million unit sales and has added new devices such as Echo Show and Echo Dot to the list. At the same time, Google has added the Google Mini to team up with the original Google Home. Apple’s HomePod, Samsung’s Bixby, and Microsoft’s Cortana are also some of the other names floating in the voice-first devices space.

These devices come in at relatively affordable prices, hence are getting trendier and popular amongst kids as well as adults. While everything holds true, it’s important to understand how this segment evolves and what could be some of the inherent challenges going ahead.

These devices work with applications that are being built by major tech brands across various industries such as media, retail, travel, entertainment, and banking, to name a few. Applications running these voice-first devices make all the difference by creating interactions that are smarter and appealing. For the record, Gartner has estimated that the worldwide spending on virtual personal assistants (VPA) enabled wireless speakers will be over $2 billion in the next three years. Hence, a lot will be left to the applications to deliver and make the experience flawless.

Always-ON, and Always-Listening

The voice-first smart devices are designed to stay conversational and are always on a listening and responding mode. This makes the business tricky, where there is a constant effort to make the experience better and error-free. Digital assurance and testing will positively have a significant part to deliver in building applications that not only perform as expected, but also stay functional during unforeseen circumstances. Performance and security are key for delivering the desired consumer experience with voice-driven assistants and devices.

There were reports where Amazon Alexa recorded a family’s conversation secretly and sent it to a random person on their contact list. Now, how embarrassing and dreadful this can be! Along with best voice and interactive experience, a lot of focus has to be laid on securing the interactions and sensitive information from hackers or probing bodies that are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities. Along with performance testing, security specialists have a significant role to play to check for gaps and ensure that the information stays within limits.

Automation can assure Quality

A high performing and secure interface can be delivered with rigorous testing. However, this is impossible without automating the testing efforts and using testing frameworks and test suites. It is highly business critical that any bugs or gaps in the application are found before the users find them. Automation of testing processes not only ensures that the bugs are eliminated way ahead in the testing cycle, but also supports real-time updates with effective quality assurance. This helps brands to deliver innovative solutions to the consumers with much needed confidence.

The questions that could occur to the users must be answered in advance. This will ensure holistic completion of the task. With voice-driven devices the underlying technology is speech-to-text that goes from voice stream to text, and accesses the required sources for the requested information. The response totally depends on the user’s ‘spoken’ inputs. Assuring quality needs a lot of work, with building an effective test strategy by understanding the architecture of the device and ultimately the deliverables.

The testing strategy can involve various types of testing, namely, unit testing, system testing, integration testing, performance testing, endurance testing, and security testing. It will largely depend on the requirement and the level at which the application is currently held up. For instance, the Automated Voice Testing (AVT) approach will use a speech recognition engine to manage and test the conversation, the way it would happen in the real world scenario. These tests are important for any kind of voice application that could run on any device.

AVT has been applied for testing Alexa, Google Home applications, as well as voice-driven websites and virtual assistants such as Siri, Cortana, OK Google, and even for automated communications. Automated testing of these applications will help to confirm the performance and sustainability of these devices in the real world, where the pressure will be high. There could be multiple voices to recognize and multiple queries to answer.

Enhanced Customer Experience will drive growth

Virtual Assistants such as Siri, Alexa, are OK Google have been household names for a while now. Lately, even Voice-first devices have gone mainstream and are hitting the households like any other house appliance. This is bound to create an impact on the daily lives of the users, which can be a sensitive affair. Hence, testing the software and devices for flaws and gaps is even more critical.

Moreover, thanks to the constant interactions, there has to be relentless innovation in the service. Even the competition is expected to get intense with local players coming in. The only key to success is to crack the expected and the desired consumer experience. An aggregate of the total experience will translate into success and sustainability in the marketplace for Voice-first devices.

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