Oral tradition is making a big comeback, especially through the latest technologies: 42 percent of people in Great Britain use voice searches on a daily basis (1). In the wake of this trend, the market for connected products with voice interface (of the Google Home type) has exploded: it’s expected that 43.6 million smart speakers will be sold in the US in 2018 (2). Here are three good reasons to make your chatbot talk!
1. A (spoken) phrase is worth a thousand (written) words
If we’re witnessing growth in the digital voice experience, it’s because the spoken word has proven to be more effective than the written word at transmitting information. The development of “Stories” on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook is just one example among many.
The spoken word remains the fastest, most intuitive form of communication. It also makes multitasking easier: who hasn’t performed manual tasks while talking on the phone? The same principle applies to a conversational robot. While your chatbot is explaining a procedure (let’s say for filling out a form on your website), the user can perform the steps as they’re being explained. It’s an undeniable time-saver!
2. Giving it a voice means making it more human
Sometimes, a voice alone can humanize. Remember how, in the movie Her, just the voice of Scarlett Johansson was enough to win Joaquin Phoenix’s heart, even though that voice belonged to an operating system? Or how the mermaid, Ariel, without her voice, couldn’t convince her prince that it was really she who had saved him from the shipwreck?
In the world of chatbots, emotion is a driving force. So, what better way to transmit an emotion or flesh out a personality than with a voice? More and more companies are designing synthetic voices capable of picking up on emotional cues and reacting to them by modifying their timbre, modulating their volume or bursting out in laughter.
Tomorrow, these emotional interjections will enable your chatbot to laugh when the user makes a little joke or to adopt a sympathetic tone when interacting with a user who’s stuck on some part of a procedure. In this way, the voice and its modulations help imbue your chatbot with a personality, consequently humanizing its relationship with your users.
3. Inflection and the human model: different ways of speaking
When the voice gets an upgrade
Today, the producers of synthesized voices offer the possibility of varying the timbre. At the scripting engine level, semantic analysis makes it possible for the chatbot to detect a relevant emotional status. It then knows the appropriate way to modulate its tone in reaction to the user’s request.
Another possibility is to link your chatbot to a facial recognition tool. The user’s expressions, captured via webcam, would serve to induce different inflections. In this way, you can incorporate variables in your chatbot’s natural language generation so that it says one phrase with humor, another with annoyance, and so on. In other words, the necessary ingredients to create a true rapport!
An increasingly human chatbot
It’s also possible to give your bot an actual human voice by recording the responses read by an actor. This method was used for “Ask Laura,” the bot implemented by the City of El Paso, Texas. Embodied by a human avatar – modeled after a city deputy attorney – this bot is endowed with a voice that’s “natural and friendly,” enabling her to create “the expectation of a human conversation.”
Come meet Laura, the City of El Paso’s chatbot!
The chatbot’s voice is changing
Like AI and automation, the field of vocal bots is still in its adolescence. Not yet mature, synthesized voices aren’t perfect, especially when it comes to intonation.
Even so, chatbots have successfully reinvigorated customer relations to such an extent that they are now being implemented in most large companies. Chatbots are in fashion, but numerous projects fail because the initial expectations are poorly defined.
A chatbot isn’t an answer in and of itself: it’s not the interface, but rather the way it’s used that makes the tool effective. Take your time! This prudent advice should guide your steps on two levels: with regard to the technical aspects, of course (the implementation, configuration, physical appearance and vocal presentation of your bot), but more importantly, with regard to determining the most suitable applications for the bot in your business, i.e. where it will be most readily accepted by your end users. With proper planning, a chatbot can constitute a new channel of interaction for users, for example, with their bank account.
Because a voice is an essential component for imbuing your bot with a personality, the virtual agents offered by Living Actor are endowed with speech by default. From there, it’s up to you to choose: a synthesized voice or the voice of an actor, intonation, etc. On the condition, of course, that you adapt your bot to its intended uses.