Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant has taken the world by storm— and inspired a new wave of voice-controlled products in almost every market. But how can you make voice an actual value-adding part of your product design? Here’s everything you need to know about voice control in product design, from the products that are innovating the space to how you can ensure that voice control is more than a gimmick in your own product.
Innovative New Products Integrating with Alexa and Voice
Here are some of the most inspired up-and-coming products using voice control to enhance their user experience for customers.
Voice-controlled home lighting isn’t new, but the seamlessness and ease with which Vocca Pro integrates into your life is a gamechanger.
With many smart assistant-controlled home gadgets like Nest, a whole lot of admin is involved with the setup and ongoing use of devices. Not so with the Vocca Pro Light. Simply screw in a light bulb adapter into any light socket, complete the initial fast setup with a smartphone app, then delete the app and control your lights with nothing but your voice. The success of Alexa- and voice-controlled devices depends on how seamlessly they integrate into everyday life, and that’s where Vocca Pro shines.
Motorola’s Hint earbud isn’t the first earbud to allow for voice control, but it might be the most impressive. It has no parts that hang out below the ears, with a discrete and stylish design that comes in a range of finishes. It’s also designed to hear your voice perfectly no matter the background noise, so you can casually give it commands even when standing on a crowded metro platform. The best voice products know how to actually listen to your voice without you having to shout or annunciate unnaturally, and that’s where the Motorola Hint shines.
After the spectacular initial failure of Google Glass, it takes a lot of guts for a brand to try to tackle the smart glasses market again— but that’s exactly what Oakley is doing with their RadarPace.This sport eyewear design features built-in earbuds and is specifically made for athletes. The voice activated coaching system doubles as a phone and fitness tracker, and it’s 100% hands free. Want to know your current heart rate during a workout? Simply ask. Need a new training plan? Simply asks for that, too.
Jibo is a smart robot designed to cross the threshold from helpful digital assistants to actual digital friends. It’s not just designed to react to you, but to be proactive about actually leading conversations. Jibo can tell bedtime stories, serve as MC for family game night, and a whole lot more. The most impressive thing about Jibo, though, is its ability to learn from experiences and understand you better the longer you own it.
Why Do Customers Want Voice Command Capabilities in Their Products?
While smart voice commands were once the stuff of science fiction movies, they’re much more than just a futuristic novelty. Voice commands allow us to communicate with the devices in our life in the way that comes most naturally to human beings— by speaking. It allows us to engage with devices when our hands are full, when we’re on the go, and without having to slow down our lifestyle. That ability to make products integrate even more seamlessly than ever into our customers’ daily lives is the true potential of voice-enabled devices.
What Do Product Designers Need to Consider When Adding Voice Command?
When it comes to integrating voice command, the name of the game is natural. If interacting with, commanding, or getting information from a product via voice isn’t intuitive, then it’s no easier than using your hands.
Your ultimate goal should be to allow customers to talk to a product the way they would talk to a person. As soon as they have to consciously adjust their language, pronunciation, volume, or tone in order to be understood, the illusions of a digital personal assistant is gone, and your product is just another glitchy device they have to deal with in their life.
It’s also important to consider your specific product type and how voice can benefit its user experience. It should never be added as a gimmick or simply as a hot selling point. Voice control should genuinely make your product easier to use and/or more powerful. If it doesn’t, it’s nothing but design bloat.
Products That Can Be Enhanced with Voice Command Capability
Here are some of the most promising areas where voice command capability is most promising for product design.
People spend more time in their homes than anywhere else in their life, and the convenience of integrating voice capabilities with everyday appliances and tasks is an obvious fit. But to compete in the crowded smart home market, you’ll have to find innovative ways to integrate voice command effectively. Consider the everyday tasks that could be made easier and more seamless with voice command— plus, don’t forget that voice control is a two-way street. Consider the tasks that could be made easier with a voice assistant that relays information to your customers via voice.
Fitness activities involve movement and action— not ideal for using handheld devices. That’s where voice control can really excel. While fitness products are increasingly including voice control, few have done it seamlessly enough to be considered game changing. If a product can make voice control integrate fully into even the most strenuous workout, you’ll have a winner on your hands.
Nowhere is hands-free functionality more important— and potentially life saving— then in cars. Automobile-based products that harness the power of voice commands effectively can transform what people can safely accomplish while on the road, from navigating and sending messages to finding out weather at their destination and much, much more.
What product category can you innovate with voice command capability? The possibilities are endless, just waiting for inspired product designers to find and access their potential. Will your product be next?