Voice recognition technology is one of the most exciting innovations in the market right now. Voice assistants were first integrated into smartphones several years ago, and consumers have become increasingly reliant on voice technology to simplify and automate the tasks in their daily lives like booking an appointment or making an online purchase.

Dr. Ryan Chen, general manager of the Computing and Artificial Intelligence Technology Group at MediaTek discussed with The Manila Times (TMT) where the innovation in voice recognition technology is headed and how it could make a real difference.

TMT: Why is there a growing excitement in the field of voice recognition? What’s all the fuss about?

Chen: If you look at it seriously, voice is actually a much more natural interface than text for many consumers. In fact, a 2017 study from Pew Research found that 42 percent of adult Americans use voice assistants on their smartphones. In a world where multitasking has become a competitive advantage, voice technology is simply enabling consumers to do more in less time.

Beyond smartphones, we are also seeing an influx of innovative new voice assistant devices (VAD) like smart speakers and tablets integrating voice technology. These devices are powerful tools that could simplify the tasks we perform in our daily lives and keep us heads-up and hands-free to improve productivity anytime, anywhere.

What lies ahead if you situate voice recognition innovation with really cutting edge technologies?

Take edge computing, for instance. In the coming years we expect to see a greater push towards computing at the edge in the VAD market. Connected devices would increasingly have more AI (artificial intelligence) capabilities built in for processing at the edge, enabling a more seamless experience for consumers to get the information they need even faster from their voice-enabled devices. Local processing would also use less bandwidth and would offer even more robust security to protect users’ data, a significant benefit as cybersecurity has become more important than ever.

You’re almost saying voice recognition technology itself would leap beyond being just an assistant or digital helper as it is now being billed to consumers, so are the possibilities endless?

What we’re seeing right now is that voice assistants would start to open up new waves of innovation: a shift in the design of connected devices, with exciting new features and form factors. A shift in the role that voice plays in our lives, changing the way we interact with our devices. And a whole new ecosystem of devices with voice capabilities.

For the smart home, voice technology has already expanded beyond smart speakers and is being integrated into a variety of form factors like microwaves and other appliances. On the road, we’re starting to see accessories that turn any vehicle into a connected car. Beyond our homes and our cars, voice technology would reshape our lives in ways we haven’t even imagined yet.

We might even see our primary compute paradigm change. Most consumers rely on their smartphone and PC as their primary computing platforms, and then use other devices like smart speakers for different tasks. As more consumers embrace voice technologies, this could change in ways we can’t even anticipate.

We appreciate what assistants could do like taking menial tasks out of our hands. What’s the bigger picture in terms of actual benefits and advantages to a mere assistant, no offense intended.

The benefits to individual users and consumers are pretty obvious. Let me say also that this new renaissance in design and devices have a broad and significant economic impact.

Given the advantages to each individual, we are likely to see consumers buying more and more devices to be connected in every aspect of their lives. For example, if a consumer loves having a smart speaker in their living room, they might go out and buy them for other rooms in their home. Or perhaps they’ll buy more light bulbs, security cameras and other connected devices that could be integrated through intuitive voice-centric capabilities.

At some point we’ll also see consolidation. For example, today consumers could buy voice accessories for their car — but in the future voice capabilities might become a standard feature in the cars that we buy, and a second device won’t be necessary.

Whatever happens, it’s clear there is a huge opportunity today for companies building voice-first devices and around intuitive voice technologies.

How soon would these projected innovations be coming to a home or office near us?

Allow me a little marketing pitch. We at MediaTek are constantly working to accelerate innovation in the voice recognition and assistant technology space. We continue to work closely with our partners and customers to expand the VAD ecosystem and enrich consumers’ lives by bringing voice technology to an even wider variety of devices in the home and beyond.

Our high performance chipsets help intelligent decision-making happen faster. Our solutions are also extremely energy-efficient so consumers could enjoy their devices for longer in-between charges, or happily leave them always-on without any significance to their power bills. To enable developers and device makers to more easily design differentiated solutions, our chipsets support mainstream AI frameworks including Google TensorFlow, Caffe, Amazon MXNet, Sony NNabla and more.