How the Future of Voice Search Affects Marketers Today

Written by guest author Lindsay Boyajian at Conductor

Since Amazon announced its acquisition of Whole Foods, the running joke across social media has been, “Jeff Bezos said to Alexa, ‘Buy me something on Whole Foods,’ and Alexa bought Whole Foods.”

This quip highlights the shortcomings that plague voice search. Today, voice recognition technology is very much flawed and often falls short in delivering on the user’s intent.

Despite its weaknesses, voice search is promising to be the user input of tomorrow. The major tech companies are investing heavily in the technology— Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa, Google has Google Assistant, and Microsoft has Cortana. Even with the technology in its nascency, Google reports 20 percent of queries on its mobile app and Android devices are voice searches.

And thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, voice search is improving quickly. It improves with every user interaction, becoming more apt at understanding user intent. With the technology advancing, more users will adopt voice search, fueling the growth cycle.

The work that is going into voice recognition technology today will power the next evolution in computing— augmented reality.

Augmented Reality & Voice Search

Augmented reality (AR) represents a new computing paradigm. Augmented reality overlays digital assets on the real-world environment. The technology promises to change how users interact with the digital world.

Soon, everything from office activities to shopping will be experienced through augmented reality. For instance, a shopper will be able to put on a lightweight pair of AR glasses to visualize in 3D what different couches will look like in her home. Some AR experiences like this are already offered today through head-mounted devices like Hololens and Meta. However, these devices are only available to developers and still have their limitations. They are not ready for mass consumer adoption.

The principal user input for augmented reality devices (excluding hardware input accessories like keypads and clickers) is gesture and voice. The issue with gesture controls is user discomfort and fatigue. Many experts agree that voice will be the primary input for these devices.

As the augmented reality space matures so will the importance of voice search.

The tech company with the most advanced voice recognition technology will have an advantage in augmented reality computing.

Optimizing Organic Search for the Future of Voice Search

Although mass consumer adoption of AR hardware is still years away, brands that optimize for voice search early will lead in organic and search marketing when the technology becomes ubiquitous.

Voice search behavior differs from traditional search patterns. Consumers approach voice search using natural, more conversational language. The queries are often longer and delivered as questions.

The result for marketers is that content optimized only for keywords will falter, while content that delivers value and matches the intent of the user will see improved organic search performance. To do this, marketers need to develop a deeper understanding of their customers to deliver content that provides relevant and timely value. This approach to marketing is known as customer first marketing.

Customer first marketing is not new. More and more brands are quickly adopting a customer-centric marketing approach. Relevant and contextual content drives traffic, fosters customer engagement, and builds loyalty. The rise of voice search and its link to the future of augmented reality only makes adopting a customer first marketing strategy even more advantageous for brands and marketers.

This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn. For more, follow Lindsay Boyajian on Twitter and LinkedIn

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Robotics Software and Services is Where the True Value Lies

We recently published a six-part series on the future of robotics including a detailed outlook through 2025 on the five major robotics categories: IndustrialCommercialDomesticMilitary, and Social. Each part highlighted our thesis, outlook and market size for each category of robotics hardware, but we expect robotics software and services to be even larger.

In total, we believe the robotics hardware market will grow from $20.9B in 2016 to $73.0B in 2025, representing a 14.9% 10-year CAGR. However, our estimate only includes hardware sales, not software or other supporting services for robotics. When factoring in these additional markets, we believe the total robotics market value could be 3x larger including $73B in hardware plus $140B+ in software and services. We believe the hardware and components used for robotics will largely be commoditized over the next 10 years. Differentiated hardware will be the exception to the rule and unique value will be driven by software and services.

Advancements in software, including robot control software and data analytics platforms, will be key to improving robot functionalities and, in-turn, drive further adoption. For example, an unmanned traffic management platform to track robots that move autonomously in society will be crucial to large scale deployment of robotics. We view traffic management as one of the more attractive investment opportunities in the robotics space. We also believe robotics as a service (RaaS) will continue to gain momentum and we view this business approach as an attractive value proposition for business of all sizes. In the paragraphs below, we dive deeper into key robot software platforms, as well as robotic services driving growth across all five robot markets.

Robot Control Software

Programming a robot is one of the most challenging, costly and time-consuming tasks involved in creating an autonomous machine. Few companies that employ robotics will build proprietary control software from scratch. Most will lean on standardized, open-source robotics operating platforms to program robots. The Open Source Robotics Foundation has developed the Robot Operating System (ROS), which is a collection of tools to simplify the task of programming robots across a wide variety of platforms. ROS has become the preferred platform for programming and it has significantly accelerated the number of robotics companies coming to market. However, due to advancements in computer vision and artificial intelligence, companies are developing more efficient and cost effective ways to train robots. Because of lower costs and smaller form factors of 3D cameras, LIDAR and RADAR sensors, robots can better understand their surrounding environment. Coupled with machine learning mechanisms, these new technologies are allowing robots to learn on their own. A future in which robots are self-taught in real-time is still many years away, but we believe further advancements in artificial intelligence will significantly narrow this gab and allow robots to become more human-like.

Data Analytics Software

Due to the advanced sensors that robots carry, machines are gathering incredible amounts of valuable data every day. We believe one of the most attractive investment opportunities in the years to come will be companies capable of taking this data and turning it into actionable insights for businesses to improve efficiencies and productivity. Providing enterprises with affordable, real-time intelligence will be a game-changer for many and a driver of robot adoption. In robotics industries, such as the commercial drone market, early adopters have quickly focused less on the drone hardware and more on the data gathered by the drone. We believe that over time this data-focused shift will continue, and robots will be seen as automated data collectors in many industries. Today, it can take days to remotely process data from robots. Cloud computing is helping to process these large data sets, but leaders in the industry will need to be able to process the data in real-time onboard the robots and provide businesses with answers immediately.

Unmanned Traffic Management Software

For robots to be deployed at scale and operate autonomously within society, we believe an unmanned traffic management platform for air, ground and sea is required. In the near term, we believe the focus will be on implementing a drone traffic management system that provides situational awareness for other drone operators and manned aircraft pilots. Unmanned aerial vehicles are used in a growing variety of applications. By 2020, we expect over 400K commercial drones will be sold annually. For manned aircraft and drones to operate together, both will need to be able to communicate on a common platform, which will allow drones to fly regularly beyond visual line of sight. Amazon and Alphabet are both working on proprietary drone management systems, but we’ve seen a handful of smaller companies working on sophisticated software platforms and believe there will be many different services available to provide situational awareness to the aircraft community. Leaders in the space will be able to support management of drone operators, which will include flight planning, flight approval, tracking as well as remote identification. We believe similar tracking systems should also be in place for ground and marine robots, but a system that works for air, land and sea vehicles in conjunction may be the ultimate goal.

Robotics as a Service

While advancements in software are improving robot functionalities, new services will also be a growth catalyst for the industry. Given certain robot-related costs remain high, many companies are starting to offer robotics as a service (RaaS) for more business to benefit from the advantages of robot technology. This model allows for customers to either lease robots and/or the RaaS provider will visit the customer to perform a specific task with a robot and provide the customer with the data gathered. For example, this service model is common within the commercial drone industry, where businesses may not have the pilot expertise to operate a drone and, in the end, the drone user is primarily after the data gathered. We believe robotics as a service (RaaS) is gaining momentum across multiple robotics domains and we view the offering as an attractive value proposition for business of all sizes.

Delivery Robots

Package delivery via drone or ground robot represents one of, if not the, largest opportunity for robotics services. While we do not see robot package delivery being deployed at scale for at least five years in the US due to current regulations in place, we believe package delivery is real and represents a multi-billion-dollar market opportunity.  While most package delivery will be by drone, we see a meaningful opportunity for ground robots to also participate. To allow packages to be delivered by a robot, we believe 2 things need to occur over the next couple years: First, the US and other countries need to implement favorable regulation to allow drones to fly over people and beyond visual line of sight. Second, we believe an unmanned traffic management system needs to be put in place allowing all stakeholders to track all robots in use. Both issues will eventually be resolved in the US, but due to more favorable regulation internationally, we believe robot deliveries could occur much sooner in foreign markets.

Bottom Line

We estimate that robot hardware will represent a $73.0B market opportunity by 2025; however, we believe many robots will be commoditized over time. Instead, the sustaining value add in robotics will come from software and supporting services. For that reason, we believe investing in companies with a software- or service-focused business model will be the more attractive way to play the growing robotics theme given these approaches are more scalable and, arguably, more defensible. We believe the largest software opportunities will be companies that improve the speed at which robots learn, as well as companies turning the data gathered from robots into actionable insights companies can use to improve efficiencies and productivity. In addition, we believe companies working on platforms for an unmanned traffic management system is crucial to accessing new multi-billion market opportunities; e.g., drone delivery. We believe advancements in robotics software platforms will be reliant on innovation in artificial intelligence, cloud computing and computer vision. With regards to services, we believe the RaaS model is gaining momentum, allowing more businesses to adopt robot technologies.

We believe a cultural shift is underway and robots are playing an increasingly crucial role in our everyday lives. Improvements in robot hardware, software and services will positively impact the industry and drive robot adoption globally.

Austin Bohlig contributed to this note. 

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Eric Schmidt is Wrong About Automation

At the Viva Tech conference in Paris, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt stated that he believes automation will create more jobs, not eliminate them. I think he’s wrong, and I hope he’s wrong. Disagreeing with the Chairman of the most advanced AI company in the world about automation is a dangerous game, but there are three things that can challenge his statement: timing, incentives, and economic realities. Let’s discuss his position through each of those lenses.

Timing. While Schmidt said he expects AI to create more jobs instead of eliminate them, it’s unclear what time frame he’s considering. When people talk about AI eliminating jobs, it’s almost always on how far out they’re looking into the future. Sometimes that’s five years, sometimes it’s 20, and sometimes it’s 50. At the same conference, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said the idea that robots would run factories in five years is “bullshit.” That I can agree with. The five-year picture of automation isn’t going to result in mass job loss, but the transition will start. Low-skill blue collar jobs will see continued automation. We should start to see autonomous vehicles and continued industrial automation.

Long term, automation isn’t bullshit. If we don’t have machines and software capable of performing most of the tasks we call labor in 30, 40, 50 years, then it will be a failure of Google and our technology ecosystem. We already have machines that can see and hear. We have machines that can roughly manipulate objects in the real world. We have machines that can “understand” enough at a base level to be useful at specialized tasks. Robots don’t get tired, they don’t need breaks, and they don’t get distracted. They will eventually be able to do things with greater precision and sophistication than humans, whether physical work or knowledge work. When robots get sick (broken), they’re much easier to fix or even replace. Robots don’t need to commute to jobs, which saves on energy costs. Robots don’t need paid vacation or catered lunches. For all these reasons, robots will eventually be the most competitive option for the majority of jobs. A few more decades of improvement on artificial intelligence and robotics should yield far more capable machines that can perform almost all work more effectively and more efficiently than humans.

Incentives. Any discussion around job creation or loss is highly political, which means it’s also highly emotional. Many people get scared or even angry when confronted with the possibility of mass automation and human “unemployment”. Eric Schmidt is a savvy politician, and Google is the world’s leader in artificial intelligence development. He doesn’t want the world associating Google with job loss because it could negatively impact their business. He may also have other desires to serve in public office and is setting the stage for those ambitions. Either way, he’s incentivized to be an automation unemployment denier.

But the issue of incentives flows similarly to all executives and CEOs, Immelt included. They’re in an impossible political situation. If Immelt, or any CEO, were to embrace robots capable of eliminating human jobs, there would be backlash among their employees. No worker would be happy to be viewed as a stop gap to automation. There would also be massive PR backlash.

This psychological reality of having to avoid these negative incentives can have real impact on the progress of automation adoption. Decision makers who are caught between looking for improved productivity from automation and maintaining jobs may be forced to seek suboptimal solutions to keep humans employed. Over the past several decades, automation in factories hasn’t meaningfully improved productivity. One reason may be that robot installations approved by executives are done so with the goal of sustaining human jobs rather than maximizing total productivity.

Economic Realities. During his speech, Schmidt argued that not only could automation help create more jobs, but also raise wages. He said that if you “make people smarter” via computers, their wages should increase. In a vacuum this might be true, but in reality this seems to ignore supply and demand.

Let’s take an example in knowledge work automation. In the future, computers are going to be better accountants, financial advisors, actuaries, claims adjusters, etc. than humans. All of these are highly logical jobs driven by information. Per Schmidt’s argument, automating these functions should lead to more jobs, which may be true. Knowledge work jobs might still need a human front end to present the end results from the computer with a human touch (empathy); however, now you’re employing a good customer service operator, not an accountant. In fact, the human might not need to have much more than an entry level understanding of accounting and a positive demeanor to present the script that the computer provides them, which means that far more people are qualified to perform the job of presenting accounting results from a machine than are qualified to be an accountant. Given this great supply of potential workers, it’s hard to see how wages for workers replacing accountants would rival those of accountants today.

Knowledge work seems most sensitive to the economic realities of making humans smarter, but the same can apply to blue collar work. If autonomous trucking becomes a reality in the next decade, that might result in lower freight fees, which might result in increased demand for freight services, which might result in increased demand for dock workers or truck loaders; however, those skills are widely available and now there are a pool of unemployed truck drivers to fill those spots. Again, supply and demand would suggest businesses need not pay higher wages to attract workers to lower-skilled labor.

What We Can Agree On. Instead of debating whether automation will create jobs or eliminate them, we should instead start to set aside the modern dogma that humans must have jobs to survive and be productive. We should consider what a world would look like where humans don’t have to work. A world where all humans don’t need to worry about basic needs because of automation, freeing them to explore what it means to be human. Free to provide value through empathy, community, and creativity — the things robots cannot do.  Maybe we won’t agree on the outcome of automation, but one point we hopefully all agree on is that the future is bright because of automation, not in spite of it.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Apple Confirms Self-Driving Car Project

In an interview with Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed Project Titan, Apple’s car project. Cook referred to this as “the mother of all AI projects.” While the project hasn’t been a well-kept secret, Apple’s public confirmation is noteworthy. Cook referred to the three specific areas: self-driving technology, the electrification of vehicles, and ride-hailing as “three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame.”

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems…It’s a core technology that we view as very important…We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects…It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.” – Tim Cook

We wrote previously about Apple’s self-driving car project, but there hasn’t been a public statement as clear as Tim Cook’s comments today about Apple’s efforts on the car front.

At the end of the interview, Cook shared: “Autonomy is something that is incredibly exciting for us. We will see where it takes us. We are not really saying from a product point of view what we will do. But we are being straightforward in that it is a core technology that we view as important.” So, how will Apple turn the technology into a product?

“Autonomy is something that is incredibly exciting for us. We will see where it takes us. We are not really saying from a product point of view what we will do. But we are being straightforward in that it is a core technology that we view as important.” – Tim Cook

How Will Apple Go to Market? There are two ways we see Apple potentially bringing its car technology to market. The first option would be to partner with a manufacturer to bring an Apple-branded car to market. The second option would be to focus on developing software and implementing it across as many car platforms as possible.

  • Partner with a manufacturer. Apple could partner with a manufacturer to bring its own branded car to the market, just as they do with the iPhone and iPad. By partnering with a manufacturer, Apple would have design control over the product, and would be able to customize the user experience as much as possible. On the other hand, manufacturing a car is very different than manufacturing a smartphone. Apple could even acquire a car manufacturer to do this. Some think it makes most sense for Apple to acquire Tesla, but we have already written about why this is most likely a fairy tale.
  • Develop software for autonomous vehicles. Another option is for Apple to license its technology to current auto manufacturers for use in their vehicles. Apple could be the OS of the future for cars. This may be the more likely option. In order for widespread adoption of fully autonomous vehicles, cars would need to have hardware and software integrated into their design that would not only operate the vehicle, but also communicate with surrounding vehicles at all times. In this scenario, Apple would expand its presence in the automotive market significantly and further expand the halo effect of their product lineup into autos.

At the moment, Apple’s is likely pursuing both options under the R&D umbrella of project Titan. True to form, they’ll watch this market emerge and enter when the time is right – from both a product and a market standpoint.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Social and Entertainment: Robotics Outlook 2025

This is the sixth post in a six-part series we’ve published on the future of robotics. Every day this week, we’ve published a detailed outlook on a category within the robotics market including details on our thesis, outlook and market size for each category.

See previous notes in our Robotics Outlook 2025 series here: IntroIndustrialCommercialDomesticMilitary.

While we believe domestic robots (e.g., vacuums, mops and lawnmowers) will be the largest robotics market within the home, we see other home robot markets quickly emerging in the form of social and entertainment robots. Entertainment robots are simply characterized as robot toys, but due to advances in artificial intelligence and specifically voice recognition and natural language processing, robots are now capable of interacting directly with humans. We characterize these personal companion systems as social robots, and they can interact directly with people by performing many routine tasks such as reminding people of important events and answering a growing list of questions. Over the next 10 years social robots will get smarter and more capable, which will expand the ways they interact with people. At the same time, these robots will become more affordable.

  • Entertainment Robots: We characterize entertainment robots as machines in the form of toys, such as drones and remote control cars. The entertainment robot category continues to grow due to the lower costs of robot technologies. Today, robot toys can range from $50 to as high as $1,000, but over the next 10 years we expect the average price for toys to come down significantly, making robot toys affordable for more households.
  • Social Robots: Best characterized as personal companions, social robots are systems capable of interacting directly with people. While the primary form of interaction is via voice control, advances in computer vision are allowing social robots to sense human movement, gestures and even emotions. Driven by innovation in artificial intelligence, social robots can also answer a growing list of questions. Today, the most common form of social robots includes the Amazon Echo and Google Home, but we anticipate newer and more niche platforms to be introduced that will go beyond these technologies capabilities.

Social and Entertainment Robot Market to Grow to $2.0B By 2025

According to the International Federation of Robotics, 1.7M social and entertainment robots were delivered in 2015, representing a $1.0B market opportunity. We believe the number of social and entertainment robots sold in 2016 increased 25.0% y/y to 2.1M. Due to lower robot costs, we believe the market value only increased 10.0% y/y to $1.1M.  Looking ahead, we anticipate social and entertainment robots to see heathy growth, but due to lower robot costs from increased competition, we only anticipate the market to grow at a high-single digit market CAGR through 2025. While we believe there will be specific sub-markets within these categories to experience much higher growth, over time social and entertainment platforms will be commoditized and the value-add will come from application development. That said, by 2025 we believe over 7.4M social and entertainment robots will be shipped, representing a $2.0B market.

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