Navigant Research Blog

Alexa’s Super Bowl Pick Demonstrates Advances in UX

— February 1, 2018

Over the past week, the internet has been captivated by Alexa’s pick for the Eagles to win Super Bowl LII, with tweets, videos, and articles featuring Alexa’s latest mantra: “I’m flying with the Eagles with this one because of their relentless defense and the momentum they’ve been riding off their underdog status. E-A-G-L-E-S. Eagles.”

Though most will look at this latest Alexa craze with a small chuckle and admire the assistant’s cleverness (or, if a Patriots fan, seething and swearing off Alexa), to me this response demonstrates a small step forward in user experience (UX) that has been lacking in digital assistants.

What Is UX?

UX is an increasingly popular acronym floating around the tech industry (not to be confused with user interface [UI]), and it captures a field targeted at improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in interactions between consumers and products. In the world of digital assistants, UX is about the smarts of a digital assistant and its ability to complete tasks asked of it in a satisfactory way to users.

Some would argue that, while there have been significant strides in voice activation as a UI, one of the biggest obstacles to the mass adoption of digital assistants is lacking UX. For anybody who has used a digital assistant, this is completely understandable. There is nothing more frustrating than asking Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, or any other the other various digital assistants a simple question, only to have it not understand or reference something entirely unrelated. This type of mishap is frequent enough that it has even resulted in satire about the experience with digital assistants. One such example is a CollegeHumor clip where a woman asks, “Siri, how big is the Serengeti?” and Siri responds, “No problem. Show me pictures of spaghetti.”

Personality Is a Plus

While Alexa rooting for the Eagles isn’t exactly a groundbreaking advancement in the field of artificial intelligence and natural language processing, the fact that users are fascinated with this phenomenon and think Alexa has a sense of humor creates a more positive UX with digital assistants, and can help spur adoption of these devices. Personally, the fact that I get a clever response from Alexa on who will win the Super Bowl, while my Google Assistant says, “My apologies. I don’t know that,” gives Alexa a leg up on Google because taking a side is more personable than saying nothing at all. It’s a small gesture on Amazon’s part that makes a big difference in my experience as a user. As it so happens, I also agree with Alexa. Go Eagles!

 

Digital Assistants Are a Stepping Stone for Artificial Intelligence in the Home

— November 21, 2017

Artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining hype and capturing headlines about its futuristic possibilities. Popular media, like Blade Runner 2049, depicts AI as a technology powering human-like robots with capabilities for taking over the world. In reality, AI is here, and it is already used in everyday lives. Today, AI is enabling ridesharing applications like Lyft and Uber, autopilot in commercial flights, mobile check deposits, online shopping, and more. The technology is making significant progress across a variety of markets and is spreading to the smart home.

The home is abundant with opportunities to automate tasks and create more personal experiences with technology. AI can be used to enhance solutions that help consumers better understand and manage energy consumption and keep homes safer and more secure. Also, it creates more intelligent and intuitive home automation by studying patterns of human behavior to operate the home more efficiently.

The Digital Assistant

One obvious way in which AI is spreading through the home is digital assistants. Digital assistants, or virtual assistants, are the human-like user interface embodying AI software and cloud services. They are fundamentally changing the way users interact with technology by creating an easy-to-use, hands-free, and conversational experience via voice activation. They also represent a platform that converges devices, data, services, computing power, and the internet to better understand and anticipate consumer needs. While the novelty of using digital assistants is driving adoption and market growth (try playing Jeopardy with Alexa), this technology has powerful implications. Many companies recognize this potential, and large tech incumbents like Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft are quickly and heavily investing in AI and digital assistants for the home.

Though digital assistants promise market disruption and a fundamental shift in the use of technology, it is important to stay realistic about AI in the home. Some would argue that traditionally defined AI does not even exist in the home—they would argue it’s all just analytics and algorithms. Others would argue that this is the reality of AI—it isn’t glamorous, it’s about automating tasks and identifying behavioral trends to make our lives more comfortable, convenient, and efficient. How this technology will play out—whether it will be a benevolent and revolutionary technology or whether it will become an existential threat to human existence—remains to be seen. For now, AI is having an impact in the home in the form of digital assistants. Check out Navigant Research’s Digital Assistants and AI in the Home report for more information.

 

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