Even ten years ago, if someone ever saw you talking to a machine, they had one word for you -- lunatic, or other variants of this word, depending on your choice of regional dialect. Today, things have changed. Millennials are uber comfortable talking into and hearing back from a machine, and if the non-millennials do not catch up, they are going to be called lunatics the next time they ask directions from a human being!
Voice assistants, from day one, had massive potential, from changing web surfing behaviour to making voice the virtual keyboard to all the information in the world. A major step was taken a few days back in India, to kick-start the next wave of voice-enabled computing. Amazon India, at its Voxcon event, revealed that Alexa will now understand and speak in Hindi!
With this development, Alexa now becomes that virtual Salwar-clad all-knowing, ever-responsive girl who can now converse with millions of middle-class Indian households. From typical activities like playing music to dimming lights, the powers of Alexa can now be leveraged to turn up family soaps, get Ramayan or Quran recitations, and become the central family compute device for entertainment and information. On one hand, mass adoption of Hindi voice computing opens up huge opportunities for rural computing at the grassroots, and on the other, allows brands to build an application with Hindi voice at the centre pillar.
Global IoT brand Tuya Smart envisions a smart home where every device talks (literally) to each other. The company has created a solution where a small piece of hardware can be plugged into anything from a fan or an AC or a TV or even a washing machine, to make it voice-ready. Tuya takes care of the entire back end mesh of connectivity formats and standards, giving the manufacture an affordable option to smarten their electronic devices, and the consumer, more devices that 'listen' to you.
On the software side of things, there are companies like Agrahyah Technologies that voice-enables companies that already have non-voice websites or apps. From car comparisons to mutual fund plans, this Indian company has voice-enabled over 100 brands and hopes to grow massively in the coming months. And then we have companies like Hungama, that have unlocked unique insights on Indian consumers of digital entertainment, and are looking at voice to give them a platform for growth. Unlike the rest of the world, music is categorized in India, not by the singer, but the actor that has acted in the song, and Hungama has voice-enabled results to suit this global deviation just for India. The company also believes that entertainment video consumption is at an all-time high in India and Hindi voice will only grow it further.
Alexa behn now has an Indian visa and can speak Hindi fluently. Between her and her sisters at Apple and Google, the threesome is ready to rock India with Hindi. Next step: regional languages. Let's wait to see which sister jumps on to that bandwagon!