I've talked to Siri on my iPhone and we have an Alexa at home - and it's fun. But can I do anything useful with them - and are there any problems I need to think about when talking to technology?
Audio apps are used in school classrooms to record sound or voice.
You might have used apps like Spotify, iTunes and podcasting apps like Anchor. And audio is a feature of platforms like Discord and messaging apps like Snapchat.
But there is a new kind of audio app that uses voice as an interface.
They are called ‘conversational interfaces’ or 'voice interfaces' and they allow you to use voice to search.
Companies like Amazon, Google and Apple all offer them. It is estimated that as many as 50% of searches will be done by voice in the future.
They are usually part of a device like an Apple watch, an Amazon Alexa smart speaker or a Google Home.
They all need internet connections to work as they have to interpret what you say in real time and do things like playing audio or reading you information.
WHO IS USING AUDIO?
Apple's Siri has over 375 million active users
Google has conversational interfaces to over 1 Billion devices worldwide
Amazon has over 100 million smart speakers
Grocery shopping accounts for more than 20% of voice-based orders
60% of smartphone users have tried voice search at least once in the past 12 months
55% of teenagers are using voice search every day
Top 3 common keywords in voice search phrases are how, what and best.
HOW OLD DO I NEED TO BE?
Lots of children are now using the voice assistants in their homes. 6 out of 10 parents say their children interact with a voice-activated assistant such as Siri or Alexa.
This makes it hard to set age limitations for the use of audio devices.
WHAT'S GREAT ABOUT THEM?
Easy to use: because no keyboard, screen or mouse is needed, they are easy to interact with (and sometimes lots of fun).
They provide feedback immediately so its like having a conversation.
Applications for students: there are lots of voice-based applications for students
WHAT ARE SOME DOWNSIDES?
Privacy. There are concerns about about privacy when using smart devices, including the question of when, for example, an Amazon Alexa device is listening to you, what it records, who can access that information and what will it be used for.
There have been many reports that devices store recordings when they say they don't.
MORE ABOUT AUDIO
Audio interfaces are now doing more than just allowing you to get simple information.
More complex tasks can be done using voice through skills or voice skills.
Each platform has a different name for their voice skills. Amazon calls them ‘skills’, Google calls them ‘Actions’, and Samsung calls them ‘capsules’.
And each platform has its own skills - such as asking the time or for weather information.
There are tens of thousands of Alexa skills and Google actions available now, and more are added every day. You can read about some of them at
Some of the terms you will see used are:
A voice application, which can respond to an 'intent' which is...
...what you want the skill to do in response to what you say
The sentence you say
The word or phrase used to get start a voice assistant listening such as ‘Hey google’, ‘Alexa’ or ‘Hey Siri’
Extra information that helps inter[ret what someone says such as ‘today’, ‘now’ or ‘when I get home’
Take a look at this example of voice skiils in an Amazon Alexa game that allows fans to navigate Westworld, based on the TV show, using only their voice.
Here are some great examples of Amazon skills that you can take a look at:
a collection of short stories for children aged 5 and above
The Magic Door
an interactive storytelling game that allows students to make choices during an adventure
The Queen’s Mathematician
a maths game for kids aged 6-8
a general knowledge learning app
translates English sentences into 37 different languages
This Day in History
voice skills for historical events
Word of the Day
a voice app to build vocabulary