Welcome back to Youth on Tech. So far, we’ve explored why listening to youths is important in the tech conversation and how to write surveys for youths. This month, we explore how youths are using voice technology.

a booming market

Science fiction has often played with the idea of conversing with machines, think K.I.T.T in Knight Rider and Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, only recently has that idea become a reality for the average consumer. Voice assistants such as Siri, and smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, have democratised what was once a pipe dream and created a voice technology market expected to be worth $31.82 billion by 2025.

Beyond smart speakers, voice technology has permeated many aspects of life such as driving and healthcare. Ford predict “nearly 90% of all new vehicles will have voice recognition onboard by 2022”and a US dermatology centre is handing out smart speakers in place of a mountain of leaflets when patients are discharged. As voice technology’s use continues to grow, we wanted to explore how the youth of today are using it.

are youths using voice technology?

Youth’s have high usage of voice activated devices (60% use a voice activated device at least sometimes). This usage is partly driven by the younger generation (11-14 year olds) who actually prefer using voice activated devices to physical inputs. After removing those with no preference, voice is preferred by 75% of 11-14 year olds and only 44% of 15-18 year olds. Perhaps this is down to the fact that this age group has grown up with the possibility of voice technology, much like young adults (15-18) have grown up with touch screens.

why are youths using voice technology?

Speaking to voice activated devices circumvents a lot of the issues younger children may have with physical inputs such as typing speed and spelling. This is supported by 63% of youths saying they prefer voice activated devices because they are ‘easier to use’. This preference for voice activated devices among younger children is likely to drive usage and sales of these technologies into the future.

how are youths using voice technology?

The primary use of voice activated devices for youths is to listen to music. The proliferation of smartspeakers hasn’t dislodged their primary function as a speaker.

The second highest use case of voice activated devices for youths, however, is to ask it silly questions. Likely heightened by the early Amazon Alexa advertising, the idea that voice technology can be a source of fun for youths above and beyond traditional uses such as turning off lights or finding out the weather is clear.

This suggests a desire for more jovial conversation with voice technology, as opposed to simple information delivery – something that developers and marketers should bear in mind when considering the benefits of voice activated devices.

the dark side of voice technology

Google showed us the potential for voice technology with a demonstration of Duplex at their I/O developer conference in May 2018. Duplex uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to book appointments over the phone for the user by mimicking a real person and speaking on the phone. Although I do question how many people will be booking appointments over the phone in 10 years’ time, the imitation of humans by robots is an interesting topic.

We found that 89% of youths believe that speaking to a robot will be indistinguishable from talking to a human at some point in the future, with 55% predicting it will happen within the next decade. However, this comes with a price. The majority of youths demand more openness, wanting robots to declare themselves as such in a range of activities. This was most important for sensitive topics such as giving medical advice (76% said robots should reveal themselves) and financial advice (69%). For brands, this demonstrates the importance of being transparent with this relatively new technology.

Governments also may want to take note of these findings and follow California’s lead. They recently enacted a Bot Disclosure law (SB-1001) that forces people or entities using bots to ensure their non-human status is revealed in any attempt to influence a sale, transaction of goods or vote in an election. With widespread voice technology use among youths expect more conversations about their ethics as the technology advances.

Next week we’ll unpack youth’s complicated relationship with social media, including usage denial and multiple accounts.

This post was originally published on Research World

By Matthew Hellon, Junior Research Executive

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