The next disruption: pervasive voice-first at work

Imagine a workplace that continuously adjusts based on artificial intelligence (AI) and your personal work graph – automatically adapting to the preferences, desires and even moods of you and your colleagues.

Wherever you go, the lighting, temperature controls and HVAC systems all perform in concert to optimise your comfort based on your own constantly-changing personal algorithms.

You’ll feel more energised during the workday and leave the office more relaxed than when you came in that morning. It may sound like virtual reality (which some are touting as the next big workplace innovation), but companies like Cisco are already reinventing the real-world office with innovative technologies such as its Digital Ceiling, which allows you to “adjust the light intensity, light colour and room temperature to your personal preference.”

The sound of things to come

For now, though, you’ll have to rely on a badge with your pre-programmed biases rather than sensor-driven information collected from a Fitbit-like wearable device.

>See also: Think before you speak: voice recognition replacing the password

Even so, technology like the Digital Ceiling is a leaps-and-bounds improvement over the green fluorescent glow and wild temperature swings many of us associate with the workplace of the past.

In the home, companies like Amazon and Apple are offering up some of the same creature comforts as Cisco and taking them a step further. By speaking commands to Alexa or Siri, respectively, individual users can dim or brighten rooms, play music, get news, check the weather and more.

While the technology still feels more passive than personal, it’s a window into the possibilities to come.

Forget VR: voice is the next big workplace innovation

It’s better to spend your days immersed in an environment that’s more spa retreat than Office Space, but the real benefits of voice-first and personal AI technologies are still to come.

In the workplace of the near future, you’ll use voice commands to tap into the machine learning capabilities of your company’s interactive intranet to achieve value that goes far beyond the aesthetic.

For instance, rather than piecing together a daily to-do list from your calendar invites, message threads and inbox like you probably do today, you’ll simply ask your personal digital assistant to gather, filter and then prioritise all of the pertinent data for you.

AI will understand the most important connections and interactions from your network of colleagues, partners and customers (your work graph), and take it from there — handling everything from scheduling meetings, to responding to important correspondence and deleting irrelevant messages.

Voice grows up

Why voice? Because the technology is finally living up to, and in some cases exceeding, its promise.

In her 2016 Internet trends report, high-tech clairvoyant Mary Meeker called voice “the next big interface”, noting that accuracy and latency are “finally at acceptable levels.” She says voice is “creating a new paradigm for human-computer interaction.”

>See also: Is voice recognition to become part of enterprise authentication?

Not only that, a new study from Stanford University finds that, for the first time ever, voice recognition has surpassed human beings at typing on a keyboard — by 300%.

Your voice will be your universal ID into this new world of work. It won’t matter where information resides or where you happen to be. In other words, voice will make interfaces irrelevant.

The secret sauce of workplace AI

It’s one thing for machine learning to make personalised recommendations based on past purchases or even to master general trivia as IBM’s Watson did on Jeopardy; it’s quite another for it to handle contextual, day-to-day tasks for individual users.

That’s where the power of the interactive intranet comes in. Watson was able to top two former Jeopardy champions because its (remarkable) algorithms were able to parse more than 200 million pages of content in order to come up with the best possible answers (or, to be precise, questions).

Without a vast database of employee activity, content and knowledge collected within an organisational workhub such as an interactive intranet, even Watson comes up empty.

As organisations start to pair work graph AI with voice-first technologies, employees will become more engaged, more productive and less stressed throughout the workday.

>See also: Voice recognition: has AI just beaten a human?

Machine learning algorithms and recommender engines will work behind the scenes to automatically surface the right experts, ideas or knowledge at the right times. And with a few simple voice commands, employees will be able to connect with the people, content and applications they need.

By utilising advancements in natural language processing, the future interactive intranet will also be able to convert words to text, which will, in turn, become part of the organisation’s valuable corporate memory that can then be searched, recalled and added to over time.

Who needs virtual reality when actually reality sounds this good?


Sourced by David Puglia, CMO, Jive Software

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...