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Why You Should Care About Facebook’s Voice Assistant Project

Tech

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Here’s why Facebook’s Aloha is so crucial to the social network’s plans.

It may seem like every tech company out there has a voice assistant who is ready to help you check the weather, buy laundry detergent, or start your playlist. Siri, Alexa, Cortana—who else can help us live our lives?

One major company is conspicuously absent from the voice assistant game: Facebook. But thanks to some wonderful work by engineer Jane Manchun Wong, the world now has a glimpse into Facebook’s “Aloha,” a prototype interface for speech recognition functionality.

Aloha would form the basis of any future Facebook home speaker, as well as potentially power transcription technology that would help FB users communicate across various media.

Facebook’s foray into the speech recognition world may seem like just another way for a tech giant to sell you some hardware or get you to download software. But here’s why Facebook’s Aloha (which, if we had to guess, will not be called Aloha when it debuts—too similar to Alexa) is so crucial to the social network’s plans.

Search is going vocal

Just as the internet has moved from mostly text-based pages to sites featuring lots of multimedia, namely video content, it’s also moving to utilize voice more than ever.

ComScore projects that 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020—and Forbes adds to that prediction by noting that voice searches “tend to be more action-based” than text searches, meaning that when someone does a voice search, they’re looking to actually make moves, such as purchase something.

In order for Facebook to keep pace with its competitors in the space for people’s attention, they’ll need technology, and perhaps even hardware, that meets this new criteria for action.

Facebook’s version will likely have a special twist

How you act on Facebook—interacting with your friends and family—is no doubt different than how you interact with Google and Amazon, and by extension, their assistants. Facebook’s voice recognition technology will take that into account.

Michael Lewis, a creative strategist at the Active Web Group, says that Aloha is being developed as “a more social version” of better known AI.

“Aloha will be designed to integrate with Facebook Messenger and pick up various tones, slangs, and dialects to better understand how people normally communicate. So as opposed to AI making users annunciation words, Aloha will adapt to user behavior,” Lewis says.

That’s a game-changer for marketers, who will then be able to mine more organic communication to better understand their customers, Lewis adds. This new information source will help them surface trends and create viral content faster and more effectively than ever.

An even greater UX experience

Of course, Facebook will posit Aloha as a way to smooth the customer experience—which, assuming we all gravitate towards voice search anyway, it will. But within that smoothing is a win for marketers: Aloha, says Lewis, could help marketers “monitor engagement and utilize personalization for early sales funnel stages to increase customer retention.”

Customers that are catered to more personally, better engaged, and better served? It’s literally a win for all sides, and that’s no doubt a huge reason why Facebook is journeying down this well-traveled road.

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