More Americans Embracing Voice-Activated Digital Assistants

New data from the Pew Research Center suggests that 46 percent of U.S. adults rely on voice-controlled digital assistants.

Those interactions mostly take place on a smartphone, with a distinct minority relying on a standalone, dedicated device such as the Amazon Echo. And it should come as no surprise that younger demographics have embraced the technology much more aggressively than older cohorts, with 55 percent of Americans aged 18 to 49 using an assistant (versus 37 percent of those 50 and older).

Some 55 percent of Pew’s respondents cited “Lets me use my device without my hands” as their major reason for using digital assistants, followed by 23 percent who did it because speaking to your device is “fun.” Another 22 percent felt that speaking commands was more natural than typing, and 14 percent said digital assistants were easier for children to use.

Of those who don’t use digital assistants, some 61 percent said they weren’t interested in the technology, while another 28 percent said they didn’t own any devices that supported it. Only 27 percent cited privacy concerns, despite a plethora of media stories about living-room devices listening to (and possibly storing) conversations. A smaller fraction of respondents (18 percent) found digital assistants too complicated to use.

For developers and other tech pros, the rise in digital-assistant use is worth paying attention to, especially as platforms such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri become more sophisticated. If you’re interested in working in this growing arena, start by checking out Dice’s “Developing for Google Home vs. Amazon Echo,” which breaks down two of the most popular digital-assistant platforms; both feature lots of kits, code, and documentation. And if you’re interested specifically in Alexa, one of the larger platforms out there, you should review how it processes routines.

Given that user base, this is clearly an area worth paying attention to, even if you have reservations about the ultimate utility of devices that rely solely on voice.

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