AR, VR and voice technology – the future of business?

What does the future hold for virtual reality?

Google, Microsoft, Sony, Amazon and Samsung are just a few of the global brands that have made steps into augmented, virtual and voice recognition technology in recent years.

With technology converging into multi-platform devices that can be used in many areas of business and everyday life, many global companies are looking at how to utilise it to their advantage.

Business Leader Magazine recently interviewed the founder and managing director of digital marketing agency, Innovation Visual, about the future business and commercial uses for AR, VR and voice technology.

Why are we seeing such a rise in voice searches and voice-related tech?

It’s easy, it’s about convenience. People want things to be easy and voice makes things easier so it is being embraced. Once you start using voice control to interact with technology on a regular basis it is very hard to go back to slower and less convenient ways.

If you take voice search I can just ask Siri as I drive along in my car to find the nearest place to find a coffee and it will not only find a place but change my route on the sat nav to take me there. At no point do I have to press a button or look away from the road. The alternative is to stop, type in the search into my phone, wait for the results and then type the postcode into the sat nav before going on my way again.

In the home too the convenience of voice is astounding. I can be making my breakfast and I can ask my Google Home device to tell me how long the journey time is to the office will be today as the A3 is traffic jam roulette some mornings! Its fast and I can get on with another task like feeding the dog at the same time. I also like the ability to create reminder lists verbally and get them read back to me later or emailed for me to work on them when I get to the office. Its hands-free convenience and multi-tasking at its best.

How will VR, AR and voice technology affect business in the UK?

The move to voice-first devices is more like a stampede at the moment with the percentage increases in voice adoption so businesses need to be aware of it. There are two broad types of voice interactions, voice-only, which is your Google Home and Amazon Echo devices that return results via audio and then there are voice-to-screen searches and interactions, so this could be Google assistant on a mobile device or Cortana on your PC.

The voice only typically will only provide one answer back so being ‘number 2’ in any results really is first looser which is going to make being number 1 so competitive. Where results are also returned on a screen the impact on businesses is going to be on dealing with more complex and detailed queries and ensuring that the search engines’ artificial intelligence understands what the firm does, from where and when.

You have to look beyond this though and start thinking about voice search and voice interaction as the future for serving customers. Amazon has become a tech company not to sell you Amazon Echo devices but to get you to say “hey Alexa send me my shopping / new gadget / 60 inch flatscreen TV”.  The want to control the sales channel, selling Echo is a means to an end. The future of voice is end-to-end transactions without needing to look at a screen or type a word and it is already here and is only going to grow, look at HSBC investing in voice recognition for authentication to banking services.

How will AR, VR and voice technology affect the advertising and marketing sectors?

In the short-term it is important that businesses look at the specifics of how this is going to affect them as each business is different. Any business with a physical location or service area needs to be looking at how the data on its website is structured using what is called micro-data or schema mark up.

This helps the search engines understand clearly about the business in a way that will help them get found. There also needs to be a change in attitudes to the purpose of businesses’ websites and digital marketing communications. The winners are going to be those firms who are thinking about how their website and digital comms can help their customers. If business leaders keep thinking that their website is there to serve their purpose they will loose.

This shift is not simply driven by voice search either but the underlying use of artificial intelligence and machine learning by the big tech companies. If your digital mindset is a website to provide brochure about your services or a digital version of your physical shop then you need to be changing right now.

How will AR and VR affect business?

Just as the voice search revolution has been enabled by more powerful computing the same is true for the virtual reality and augmented reality technology. I think that people have been viewing this technology as an extension of gaming and entertainment but the smart businesses are already embracing it for much more.

Training is an area which it is already making a big impact saving time and improving outcomes. Flight simulators have been used for years but as the cost of the AR/VR technology plummets the opportunities to use it in training grow exponentially.

I am particularly excited about augmented reality as this is now accessible on people’s own smartphones without extra hardware. For example we have already been collaborating with Diverse Interactive and one of our clients to bring complex engineering to life with augmented reality.

The opportunities for your business are limited only by your imagination. AR is being used for seeing how different items of furniture look in your own home to being able to see product prices as you look down the high street through your phone. We have got a little augmented reality app built just for our event to show people that the technology is accessible to businesses of all sizes.

How do you see the future of online marketing?

Firstly, I think it is important to think about what is not going to change. A results orientated approach always needs to be taken which has to be supported through good data collection and data interpretation to give businesses insights and clarity they are getting ROI.

This is not going to change regardless of technology. The content you create needing to be unique, compelling and useful to your audience isn’t going to change either – although I am still shocked by some businesses’ apathy to content.

The tactics and techniques that you use in your digital marketing are going to change over time and while we can see voice search and AR/VR being part of that I am sure that there are other developments that are around the corner.