My husband – Joost de Valk – and I often have discussions on how technology will change our day-to-day life. Joost is an early adopter, while I am much slower and more reluctant to technological change. Our discussions are pretty heated. So, what’s Joost’s opinion on the future of voice search? How dominant will voice search be? And how will search be affected by it? I interviewed my early-adopting-voice-addict-husband to shed some light and perspective on the matter of voice search. I did some thinking myself as well. Here, I share our views on what the future of voice search could look like.
Voice queries make a lot of sense
Joost just likes voice. He likes talking to machines. Joost asks Siri to set the timer while he’s cooking dinner and gives orders to Google Home when he wants to listen to some music. So what is it what attracts him in voice search? ‘I like voice whenever I cannot type,’ Joost answers, ‘So, I use it while I am cooking, or when we are in a car together and we have a discussion. Using a voice query is just as easy as typing in a keyword. And if you do not have access to a keyboard, voice search is especially useful.’
I think Joost is right about that: voice queries just make sense. Voice search is easy to use (as long as your voice is recognized properly). For most people, speaking to a machine is quicker than typing. And, you can use voice search everywhere, even when you’re doing other things.
Voice results do not (always) make sense
The results that voice gives us are always singular. Siri will set a timer, Google Home will play the song. Joost: ‘Voice results only make sense if you’re looking for a singular result. If you want to know something specific. If you want to end the discussion you’re having in the car and need to know exactly how many people live in France. And also, if you search for a specific restaurant. But if you want to have dinner in a nice restaurant and you’re not sure which one it ‘ll be, you’ll probably prefer to see some options. And right then and there, is where I think voice results as they work now stop making sense.’
I started thinking about that. Most search queries people use are not aimed at a singular result. People like to browse. People want to choose. That’s why physical stores have a lot of options. People like to browse through different pairs of jeans before they choose which one they’ll buy. Online, we’ll probably check out different sites or at least different models before we add a pair of jeans to our shopping cart.
If you’re searching for information that is longer than a few sentences, voice result is not very useful either. That’s because it is hard to digest information solely by listening. As a listener, you’re a very passive receiver of information. As a reader, you can scan a text, you can skip pieces of information or read an important paragraph twice. You cannot do that as a listener. As a reader, you’re much more in control. So, if you’re searching for information about what to do in Barcelona, it makes much more sense to get that information from a book or a screen.
Search engines are growing towards singular results
Joost thinks that search engines are working towards singular results. They are developing that type of functionality. ‘The answer boxes you see in the search results are an example of that,’ Joost explains. ‘Search engines are trying to give one single answer to a search query. But, in a lot of the cases, people aren’t searching for one answer. In many cases people want to make a choice, they want to browse.’
So what will the future bring?
‘I think you’ll see different applications being connected to each other,’ Joost answers when I ask him what the future of voice search will look like. ‘Siri, for example, would then be connected to your Apple TV. Search results and information would appear on the screen closest to you that Apple controls. I think voice will become the dominant search query, but I think screens will continue to be important in presenting search results.’
Read more: How to prepare for voice search? »