How to Make Virtual Assistant (Voice Search) App
Are your hands full of bags from the grocery store, and you need to look something up ASAP?
Do you need to answer an important call while driving?
Or do you just hate typing tiny novels each time you need to explain something?
Then you’ve most certainly used voice search and voice technology— and loved the convenience of it!
Quick explanation: voice search is a technology that enables users to look things up by using voice commands on the web browser, within an app, on a website, or by talking to a smart speaker developed for this purpose.
Once a novelty, devices with voice assistants have now become more common. A third of search queries worldwide are performed with voice commands, and smart speakers have become must-have household items.
Having a voice tech-powered virtual assistant is a luxury available to anyone with a smartphone. Voice integration in an app benefits developers: these apps rank better, cater to new users, provide a USP, and stand out among the competitors.
In this blog, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about voice internet search:
- Why you should implement voice assistant integration in an app;
- How people use and benefit from voice recognition search;
- What is the current state of voice assistants, and what may we expect in the future;
- Four best voice search apps: what do they do, what devices and languages they support and are they safe for children;
- How to add a voice assistant to an app in three ways (and explain what STT, TTS, and Intelligent tagging are);
- Which voice search tools are the best choice for developers wanting to create a voice assistant on their own.
Use of Voice Search in Mobile Applications
Here are the main benefits of voice technology implementation in mobile devices:
- Increased convenience for users. The first and most obvious thing is the ease of use voice search brings; it is faster, and the speech, no matter how artificial, has a more human feel.
- People and children can use it for entertainment. Many voice assistants have hidden golden nuggets people have fun with and excitedly share amongst themselves. Besides, it feels cool and futuristic, commanding your devices this way. 😎
- Helping people with disabilities. Virtual assistants bring the world closer to the visually impaired people and for those who find typing hard for any reason.
- Driving more safely. Voice commands go beyond car phone mount and make the whole experience genuinely hands-free.
- Supports natural language. SEO experts know the struggle with keywords that look like a word salad. Unlike typed searches, people tend to use natural speech patterns with their voice search queries. Therefore, optimizing for candid, spontaneous voice search is simpler than traditional keyword optimization.
It’s safe to say that voice search benefits mobile users’ lives in many ways, and it should be an integral part of your business/marketing strategy.
Current and Future State of Voice Assistants
Convenience and the ability to multitask are why people use voice commands rather than manual app/website/browser search.
The research was correct to predict that voice search will become something more significant than a fad (just like when the TV first showed up):
- Over 34 million smart speakers were sold in 2018. in the U.S. only;
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence regarding voice search keep improving: Google keeps adding new languages and developing voice search — their voice search grew to support more than 100 languages, dialects included!
Industry experts predict a bright future for voice assistants: the voice recognition market is expected to grow to 27.16 billion U.S. dollars by 2026!
4 Best Voice Search Apps
Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Spotify’s “Hey Spotify” are the best and most popular speak search apps.
Below you’ll find our in-depth reviews of their usability and convenience, their pros and cons, and accessibility for kids and people speaking different languages.
Siri is a voice search app for iPhone and other Apple devices. The “Hey Siri” command activates voice assistants for laptops, computers, watches, and headphones as well.
With Siri, you can send messages (but have to pronounce the punctuation marks), call, set reminders, and use it as a virtual assistant in all regards: for music, daily schedule, smart home,
Siri supports the most languages from all the apps on this list — 32 of them, with a variety of dialects:
- English (US, UK, Australian);
- Chinese (Simplified, Traditional, Taiwanese);
- French (French and Canadian);
- Spanish (Spain, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, US);
- Portuguese (Portugal, Brazil);
Siri doesn’t have specific settings and programs for children. You can make it safe for your kids by setting up content and privacy restrictions on all the devices they have access to.
#2 Google Assistant
Google Assistant is hands down the most advanced and the best-developed voice assistant on the market.
Continuously improved since 2016, it is now available on an incredible range of devices: from Android and iPhones, cars, speakers to fridges, lights, and heating. This intelligent personal assistant is especially popular as a smart home assistant since it works on different appliances.
Google Assistant speaks 12 languages and dialects:
- English (US, UK, Australian, Canadian, Indian, Singaporean);
- French (French and Canadian);
- German (German and Austrian);
- Spanish (Spanish, Mexican, US);
As for the children’s safety, Google assistant uses specific protocols.
Parents need to create an account managed with Family Link and add childrens’ voices on speakers, Smart Display, or Smart Clock.
Here’s what children under 13 can and can’t do with Google Assistant:
- Children under 13 can ask questions, play games, and listen to stories;
- Children under 13 can’t play YouTube videos or use YouTube music, purchase anything, or perform non-Google actions which don’t have the “For Families” badge.
#3 Amazon Alexa
Amazon’s Alexa is a powerful, AI-based voice assistant.
It is Amazon’s most popular product, but its downside is that you need to purchase an Alexa-enabled device to use it, such as Amazon Echo.
Nevertheless, Amazon is among the smart speaker industry leaders: in 2019, it was the most popular choice, selling 10.4 million shipments across the world.
Alexa supports eight languages with several dialects:
- English (US, UK, Australian, Canadian, Indian);
- French (French and Canadian);
- Spanish (Spanish, Mexican, US).
Alexa for Kids and Family provides parental control and age-appropriate activities:
- Helps with homework;
- Tells bedtime stories;
- Keeps contacts children can reach out to.
In March 2020, app researcher/engineer Jane Manchun Wong first noticed that Spotify is working on the “Hey Spotify” feature — a voice assistant for the Spotify app. Spotify officially rolled it out in April this year to provide the users with search powered by voice commands.
“Hey Spotify” can be used on mobile and with Car Thing, Spotify’s hands-free device intended for use while driving. It costs $79.99, and it is only available in the US — for now, they can put you on a waiting list.
Both devices only allow Premium users to use “…previous”, “…turn on shuffle”, and “…turn on repeat” commands.
While Spotify doesn’t specify language options for the “Hey Spotify” command, it has a Spotify Kids app with expert-picked, family-friendly audio content without ads.
User experience slightly differs for mobile users and Car Thing owners.
Using “Hey Spotify” as a mobile assistant requires you to:
- Tap the Search and the Microphone icon first, and give the necessary permissions to Spotify to record audio or access your microphone.
- Turn on the device screen;
- Open the Spotify app.
You only need to say “Hey Spotify” for Car Thing to get started.
However, you need to have a Premium account and go through a tedious setup process:
- Plug Car Thing in the 12V power outlet and mount it;
- Connect Car Thing to phone via Bluetooth;
- Connect the phone to car stereo via car Bluetooth, AUX, or USB cable.
Spotify’s voice search can easily be replaced by using “Hey, Google” or “Hey, Siri” and then ask Spotify to play music or podcasts of your choice.
On the other hand, Car Thing received a harsh critique on the internet, with many people calling it “useless” and “no better than just using your phone”.
Overall, Spotify’s “Hey Spotify” feature is nothing to write home about and is almost entirely replaceable. The one good thing is, if you “train” the algorithm extensively, the command “Hey Spotify, play more like this” may surprise you with a hidden gem on your travel playlist.
How to Add a Voice Assistant to an App
There are three ways in which you can implement voice search/assistant within your own application:
- Integrate the voice tech solutions already available on the market by using APIs (choosing Google Assistant would be the quickest, most straightforward way to do so);
- Use open-source tools to build your own voice assistant (think Mycroft, Jasper, Aimybox, etc.);
- Create an in-app voice assistant from scratch (the most advanced way to create a native voice assistant). that demands STT, TTS, speech compression, voice interface, intelligent tagging, and other voice interface technologies).
Voice Search Tools for Developers
Some of the tools developers need to use for independent voice search are as follows:
- Intelligent tagging;
- Speech compression;
- Voice biometrics;
- Voice interface;
- Noise control.
Here, we’ll describe the three most notable voice search solutions for those interested in independent app development: STT, TTS, and intelligent tagging.
These tools are based on artificial intelligence and are must-haves for utilizing voice technology to its fullest potential.
Voice/Speech to Text (STT)
Simply put, STT tools write down what people say.
Speech recognition software involves complex machine learning; it works by listening to the audio format and producing the textual output.
However, STT is tricky.
STT tools demand high-quality speech recording and completely clear pronunciation to produce accurate text. Background noise, speech impediments, words that sound similar, and accents all harm the accuracy of STT tools.
Still, STT is extra handy for all professions where transcription is required. Automatically generated subtitles help those hard of hearing and people who show some ADHD symptoms or auditory processing disorder.
Text to Speech (TTS)
Text-to-speech is a type of assistive technology that reads digital text out loud. TTS works on computers, smartphones, and tablets — nearly all digital devices.
Computer-generated voice can be slowed down or sped up according to users’ preferences, and many tools for TTS conversion highlight the text as they read.
Also called “read aloud”, TTS helps people in several scenarios:
- Visually impaired;
- Foreigners learning a new language, who don’t know the correct pronunciation;
- People and children learning how to read;
- Students who prefer learning by listening to the materials.
Image-to-speech also falls in this category.
Alt tags play an important role in image recognition for screen readers. They contain the image description, which gets read aloud with the remaining text.
Properly formatting alt tags also helps with better ranking and SEO.
More advanced TTS tools will recognize the text on the photos users capture and read it (street signs, for example).
TTS tools come in several shapes: built-in tools in smart devices, as software, apps, browser extensions, or they’re web-based (on-site TTS tools).
Unlike TTS, audiobooks are pre-recorded by human readers and have a more calming, natural feel.
Intelligent tagging and decision-making is the technology that interprets users’ commands to provide them with the best answer possible.
For example — if you ask: “Hey Spotify, play more like this”, it will create a list of songs with a similar vibe and play it for you.
Voice tech is here to stay, and getting on board early can only benefit your business.
People use it for convenience, fun, safety, and out of necessity.
Whether you choose to integrate the existing voice search tools or develop your own (the second one being more complex and time-consuming), it will boost your SEO and reveal your goods and services to the new market.