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Dr René Arnold
Prof Dr Anna Schneider
Canned Intelligence
Voice assistants in Germany
Research brief ‒ August 2019
2
Prof Dr Anna Schneider
Professor of Business Psychology
Contact:
anna.schneider@hs-fresenius.de
+49 (0)221 97 31 99 715
Hochschule Fresenius – Fachbereich Wirtschaft & Medien
Business School · Media School · Psychology School
Im Mediapark 4c
50670 Köln
http://www.hs-fresenius.de
General Manager: Prof. Dr. Tobias Engelsleben, Sascha Kappes,
Kai Metzner
Handelsregister: Amtsgericht WiesbadenHRB 19044
Authors of this study:
Dr René Arnold
Head of Department Markets and Perspectives
Contact:
r.arnold@wik.org
+49 (0)2224 92 25 25
Contact details of the scientific institutes:
WIK Wissenschaftliches Institut für
Infrastruktur und Kommunikationsdienste GmbH
Rhöndorfer Str. 68
53604 Bad Honnef, Germany
Tel.: +49 2224 9225-0
Fax: +49 2224 9225-63
eMail: info(at)wik.org
www.wik.org
General Manager and Director: Dr IrisHenseler-Unger
Chairpersonof the Supervisory Board: Dr Daniela Brönstrup
Registered: Amtsgericht Siegburg, HRB 7225
Tax No.: 222/5751/0722
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Imprint
3
Foreword
Speechless no more!?
Whether it’s Cortana, Google Assistant or Siri, voice assistants have found their way into our pockets and homes. Pre-installed
on most current digital devices, they follow us everywhere we go. Ignoring them is easy, but switching them off completely can
be difficult. No matter the operating system, voice assistants can hear our every command. One might think that this is good,
because speech is humankind’s most natural interaction mode – very much unlike keyboards. But is that really true? Will voice
interfaces really become the next pervasive technology in human–computer interaction? How will we use the various services on
the internet in the future?
Today, we are used to receiving long lists of results to any thinkable query, be it a product, restaurant or trivia search. The
choicelies with us. Wedecide which source to trust, which product to purchase or which restaurant to visit. Despite long lists of
results, which can be viewed, scrolled, filtered and sorted on ever larger screens, there is a heated debate about how Amazon,
Apple, Google and other services rank their results. The Platform-to-Business Regulation and the New Deal for Consumers bear
witness to this just as the current competition investigations into large tech firms do.
If we were to increasingly rely on voice interfaces as the most common form of human–computer interaction, lists of results
would have to become much shorter due to the specific affordances of voice interfaces. Thus, the choices would need to be
made beforehand by service providers. Society on the other hand would have to think carefully about if we are willing to accept
pre-selection and to what degree.
The present research brief suggests that we should think about this sooner rather than later. Around 85% of consumers in
Germany already have access to a device with a pre-installed voice assistant. Thus, we could face an adoption curve of
unprecedented pace. So far, voice assistants still have a long way to go to become true conversational interfaces. The
technology behind these systems however progresses quickly thanks to artificial intelligence. Competent authorities ought to
monitor the developments closely. It’s reassuring though that, for the moment at least, consumers use voice assistants mostly
for simple tasks. But will it stay that way?
Dr Iris Henseler-Unger
4
Irgendeine nette Story – Zusammenfassung – Main findings
Something like that
or not?
85% of consumers in Germany have at least one device at their disposal that features
a pre-installed voice assistant. At the moment, however, only 26% of consumers use
them. Only a small minority of non-users intend to start conversing with Alexa, Siri and
others over the next 12 months.
While data protection concerns constitute a reason for consumers to refrain from
relying on Alexa etc., the largest barrier seems to be the lack of conversational quality.
A catch 22: To improve on functionality, convenience and conversational quality, a
voice assistant must have access to contextual data about the consumer such as their
current whereabouts. Only when consumers are willing to share such information will
voice assistants likely fulfil the expectations set for them.
5
Introduction
Back in 2010, Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, was the first of today’s popular systems to be introduced.
Amazon and Microsoft followed in 2014 with Alexa and Cortana respectively. In 2016, Google
introduced Google Assistant. Samsung’s Bixby is the most recent major voice assistant and was
introduced in 2017. Due to short product cycles and regular software updates, the five companies can
draw on an enormous number of consumer devices that feature the respective voice assistants.
The figures below refer to the number of devices available to consumers globally that enable them to
use voice assistant software. But how many consumers in Germany have got a voice assistant at
home? How many actually make use of it? And what are the prevalent usage patterns? All these
questions are addressed in the present research brief. To this end, we conducted a survey of 3,184
consumers in Germany and 20 semi-structured interviews with individual consumers of whom 11 were
using voice assistants.
Sources: 1 The Verge (2019) based on Google presse release; 2 onmsft (2018); 3 voicebot.ai (2018);
4 Apple (2018); 5 The Verge (2019) based on Amazon presentation for CES 2019 (only Echos).
1000. 700 500 500 100
Google Assistant1 Microsoft Cortana2 Samsung Bixby3 Apple Siri4 Amazon Alexa5
Pre-installed base in million devices globally
6
Adoption heute
Laut unserer Befragung nutzen heute 26% der Kon-
sumenten in Deutschland zumindest einmal im Monat
einen Sprachassistenten. Etwa fünf Jahre nach der
Markteinführung der Mehrheit der wesentlichen
Systeme liegt die Adoptions-rate damit in einem
ähnlichen Bereich wie die des Smartphones im Jahr
2012.
International befindet sich Deutschland damit nicht unter
den Ländern mit den höchsten Adoptionsraten. In Italien
nutzen schon etwa doppelt so viele der Internetnutzer
einen Sprachassistenten. Im Vereinigten Königreich und
in Irland nutzt ebenfalls schon ein deutlich höherer
Anteil der Internetnutzer diese Systeme als hierzulande.
In den Niederlanden ist der Anteil der Nutzer von
Sprachassistenten dagegen geringer.
All das verblasst im Vergleich zu den Adoptionsraten
von Alexa und Co. in asiatischen Ländern. In China und
Indien verwendet inzwischen schon die deutliche
Mehrheit der Internetnutzer Sprachassistenten.
26
A2a Anteil Nutzer von Sprachassistenten in Deutschland
Sources: GlobalWebIndex and survey=3.184.
%
Niederlande
Irland
UK
Italien
Voice assistant adoption today
Accordingto our survey, 26% of consumers in Germany
currently use a voice assistant at least once a month.
Around five years after the most prominent systems were
introduced, their uptake is similar to the adoption of
smartphones in Germany in 2012.
Within Europe, Germany is not among the countries with the
highest uptake of voice assistants. In Italy, roughly twice as
many consumers use voice assistants. In the UK and
Ireland, a substantially larger share of consumers rely on
voice assistants than in Germany. Consumers in the
Netherlands on the other hand seem less inclined than
Germans to use Alexa, Siri and similar systems.
Compared to Asia, voice assistant adoption in any European
country is in its infancy. In China and India, the vast majority
of internet users also utilise voice assistants.
26
Share of voice assistant users by country
%
Netherlands
Ireland
UK
Italy
Germany
7
%
7%7%
8%2 9%2
9%6
50%
25%
75%
Pre-installed base and relative uptake
of voice assistants in %
Pre-installed base
share of population*
Cortana
Bixby
Google
Assistant Siri
Alexa
Source: Survey n=3.184.
*Cortana: 59% ; Bixby 8%;GoogleAssistant 43% ; Siri 24% ; Alexa13%.
85%
Share of consumers who have a device with a pre-installed voice
assistant at their disposal
Unlike smartphones, consumers do not have to make any
additional effort or incur expense to use a voice assistant.
Around 85% of consumers in Germany already have a
device at their disposal that features a pre-installed
voice assistant. To become voice assistant users, all
they have to do is start voicing their requests.
Consequently, we might see an unprecedented
increase in the uptake as soon as consumers feel
that voice assistants meet their needs. As the figure
on the right illustrates, the share of users who have
a voice-assistant-enabled device at their disposal
varies substantially, depending on the specific system.
Alexa has the highest relative uptake as 69% of
consumers who have a corresponding device at home
are actually using the voice assistant. However, no
other voice assistant is as closely linked to so-called
voice-firstdevices (e.g. Amazon Echo). The voice assistants
by Google and Apple are neck and neck in terms of
their actual uptake shares. In terms of total users,
Google benefits from its much larger penetration
of devices. The voice assistants provided by
Microsoft and Samsung lag behind with a
mere relative uptake of 7%.
8
Will I need an umbrella today?
Despite the wealth of functions offered by voice assistants today, retrieving information from the internet about the latest
weather reports, sport results or celebrity trivia remains the most popular function among the users of voice assistants.
The majority of the remaining nine functions that Alexa, Bixby, Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri share are used by the
users of the respective systems at roughly the same frequency. Around 40% of consumers use voice assistants for
setting an alarm clock, music playback or calls. Only around one in five voice assistant users links external devices to
the system in order to control them remotely. Only 8% of respondents have hailed a taxi via a voice assistant.
While preferred functions follow a general common pattern across voice assistants, some marked differences
emerge. Alexa, for instance, is much more likely than the other voice assistants to be used for music playback.
Notably, this happens on the integrated streaming service Amazon Music just as often as on third-party
streaming services such as Spotify.
Source: Survey n=816.
*Cortana: 59% ; Bixby 8%;GoogleAssistant 43% ; Siri 24% ; Alexa13%.
Functions used by [..] % of users
Unlike other digital services, consumers in the age
group 35 to 44 are the ones who use voice
assistants in the most versatile manner.
They use 4.1 functions on average.
The youngest age group in our sample
(18 to 24) only used 3.5 functions.
That is only slightly more than
users who are 55 and older,
who use 3.2 functions of
their voice assistants.
In general, Alexa users have the most versatile usage pattern. They use 4.2 functions on average.
Across all voice assistants, only 3.5 functions are used. Cortana users utilise particularly
few functions – only 2.4 on average. There is a notable correlation between
the number of functions used and the age of the user.
Playingmusic(onathird-party
musicstreamingservice)
36
Settingcalendarevents
37
Playingmusic(onthebundled/
integratedmusicstreamingservice)
40
Controllingthedeviceonwhich
thevoiceassistantisinstalled
41
Settingreminders
42
Settinganalarm
42
Seekinginformationonline(weather,sportsresults,etc.)
72
Callingsomeone
(communicationsfeature)
36
Hailing
ataxi
8
Linkingother
devicestocontrol
themremotely
20
9
Voice assistants and online shopping
Although online shopping features prominently both in marketing and policy
contexts as a key function of voice assistants, only Alexa users can actually
purchase online directly via their voice assistant. At least in Germany, the other
systems do not offer this function. Even with Alexa, the specific user has to be a
Prime subscriber and have OneClick activated in order to make purchases
directly via Alexa.
Around half of the Alexa users in our sample meet these criteria. Among them
only around 50% stated that they had purchased something online via Alexa in
the past. When they did it, the dominant usage pattern was to request the
product and have Alexa read out the list of specific product suggestions until one
was mentioned that met the users’ needs. Only a minority of Alexa shoppers fully
trust the assistant to make the product choice. It is likely that this usage pattern
is particularly prevalent for habitual purchases.
21%
of Alexa users have purchased
something online via Alexa.
21%
mentioned a product and Alexa ordered it directly.
30%
knew exactly what they wanted and asked for a
very specific product that they ordered via Alexa.
49%
mentioned a product and had Alexa read out
the list of results until they arrived at the
specific product they were looking for.
ofthose
Source: Survey n=816.
*Cortana: 59% ; Bixby 8%;GoogleAssistant 43% ; Siri 24% ; Alexa13%.
10
Voicing gender concerns
A recently published study by the United Nations addresses in detail the
potential challenges emerging from the obvious gender bias apparent in voice
assistants. Users can choose a male voice with Bixby, Cortana, Google
Assistant and Siri. However, a voice clearly recognisable as female remains
the default. Alexa does not offer the option to switch to a male voice. Notably,
there is a ”skill” for that. According to its reviews, the skill does not quite meet
users’ expectations as it is very cumbersome to use. Thus, western, white
and male role models are being multiplied and manifested by interactions with
voice assistants when they ought to be broken up.
8%of voice assistant users have switched
from a female to a male voice
1 United Nations (2019): SSSS.
2 https://www.genderlessvoice.com/ .
Source: Survey n=816. Without consideration of those who indicated ‚don’t knowt/not specified’.
*Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana und Bixby.
Unlike the EQUALS Coalition respondents who were cited in the United
Nations study, in our survey just 5% of male respondents stated that they have
switched their voice assistants to a male voice. Almost twice as many female
respondents did the same (9%).
Researchers from Denmark point to a possible solution. In March 2019, they
introduced “Q”, the first completely gender-neutral artificial voice. If this catches
on, voice assistants could not only prevent traditional gender roles from being
multiplied, but also help to question binary gender stereotypes in daily life.
11
Without consideration of those whoindicated ‚don’t knowt/not specified‘. Rather rare: Oncein the last month and once a week.
Rather regularly: Twice or three times a week, More than three times a week. Rather frequently: Oncea day, Several times a day.
1 Survey n=272; 2 Survey n=388; 3 Survey n=233.
Frequency of voice assistant use
Google2
Siri3
Alexa1
Talk to me
Alexa is the most frequently used voice assistant.
Half of its users speak to it at least once a day.
Siri and Google Assistant areused muchless
frequently in comparison. The majority of
their users rarely use their functions.
Approximately one inthree consumers
who own a voice assistant uses
them twice or threetimes a week.
Surprisingly, consumers in the
age group 35 to 44 are the ones
who use voice assistants most
frequently. Among them, Alexa
users are also the most engaged
voice assistant users. More than
half of the users(56%) inthisage
group speak daily with Alexa. In
the same age group, Siri is also
used quite frequently with 41% of
respondents reported to use this
system regularly.
Google Assistant lags behind in terms
of usage frequency.Only one infour
users utilizes the system daily. In
particular, 18- to 34-year-olds are
the age group with the lowest usage
frequency. Among them 49% use
Google Assistant rather seldomly.
12
Attitudes towards voice assistants
0 5 10
Non-users Users
It is particularly interesting that both groups
concur in their perception of voice assistants
being at least somewhat sales-oriented and
persuasive. This shows that consumers do
not approach this new technology naively. .
In our survey, we asked both users as well as non-users of voice assistants
about their attitudes towards these systems. Users appear to value in particular
the time they think they can save by using a voice assistant. They perceive these
systems as useful and user-friendly. Both groups do not feel restricted by the
new technology. Non-users however perceive voice assistants as less
independent and less trustworthy than their users.
Mean agreement from 0 (totally disagree) to 10 (totally agree).
Voice assistants are ...
user-friendly
time-saving
restrictive
useful
independent
persuasive
sales-oriented
needs-centered
trustworthy
innovative
13
Mean agreement from 0 (totally disagree) to 10 (totally agree).
5 10
Alexa Google Assistant Siri
Non-users
Users
In a direct comparison to Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri show
that their users’ attitudes follow a similar pattern. Siri differs
substantially from the other assistants as it is seen as less
sales-oriented and less persuasive than the other two.
This is not surprising as consumers make the link between
Google’s Assistant und Amazon’s Alexa and these companies
focus on online marketing and online sales respectively. At the
same time, Siri is perceived as less tailored to one’s needs. The
strategy of its competitors to provide individualized results
appears to be paying off.
Non-users’ attitudes
towards voice assistants are
on average less positive than users
of voice assistants. Comparing the three
main competing systems, we find that
non-users – like users – perceive Alexa to
be particularly sales-oriented. At the same
time, Alexa is seen as somewhat less
trustworthy than other voice assistants.
Whether this has any effect on non-users’
future choice of a voice assistant is however
unclear. Currently, Amazon Echo devices are
still seeing substantial growth of their sales.
0
user-friendly
time-saving
restrictive
useful
independent
persuasive
sales-oriented
needs-centered
trustworthy
innovative
user-friendly
time-saving
restrictive
useful
independent
persuasive
sales-oriented
needs-centered
trustworthy
innovative
14
Why did you stop using voice assistants?
* Referring to the voiceassistant that is actually used.
Source: Survey N=634.
Around one in five consumers in Germany has
tried engaging with a voice assistant at least once.
However, they ceased using the technology
eventually. The reasons for this revolve typically
around the technology itself.
A total of 32% of respondents stated that they have
stopped using voice assistants because their voice
commands were not recognized properly or even
not at all, while 23% felt the technology was not
reliable enough.
Just as many consumers felt uncomfortable
speaking to a machine, and this was followed by
data protectionconcernsfrom former voice assistant
users or consumers who have tried using them.
Time’s up
Voicecommandsarenotrecognized
Iamuncomfortablespeakingtoamachine
Idon‘tthinkvoiceassistantsarereliableenough
Ifearthatmydatawillbesharedwithathirdparty
Idon’ttrustvoiceassistants
Iamafraidofbeingtapped
Ithinkthedevicesaretooexpensive
Idon’twanttospendtoomuchofmy(mobile)dataallowance
Idon’twanttospendtimeonthistechnology
Otherreasons
32%
23% 23%
19% 19%
16%
10% 10% 9%
11%
While 19% said they did not trust the technology
or feared their data might be shared with a third
party, 16% were explicitly afraid of being tapped
if they had a voice assistant in their homes.
The price of devices or the additional data
required when using them on mobile devices
like smartphones and tablets played only a
minor role in causing voice assistant usage to
cease.
15
The 20 qualitative interviews conducted for the present research brief
echo the reasons elicited from respondents in the survey:
“At first you think it [using a voice assistant] is totally cool and it’s perfect.
You think it will all work, but in fact it’s rarely quicker. Often it is not
precise enough and then you simply lose interest.”(Patrick, 20)
“You often have to use commands that are not flexible. It would have to
be much more flexible, so that the voice assistant really understands
me.” (Bennett, 27)
“Switching from German to English is a pain. Then she [the voice
assistant] does not understand ‘Good Wife’sometimes, because it is an
English term. But the series is simply called that. You simply can’t get
around English in German.” (Ann-Kathrin, 24)
The interviews further illustrate that voice commands at least outside of
the protected private space of one’s home and in particular in social
situations can be perceived as negative:
“It’s just frustratingbecause it simply kills the atmosphere, when
everyone sits there and is talking to their phones.” (Sabine, 68)
“I think that using voice assistants is not yet fully accepted. Like walking
in the city and speaking to your phone, giving voice commands.”(Philip,
25)
“I think it’s because I have never really seen anyone doing it [giving
voice commands in public]. That would draw quite some attention.”
(Chalida, 20)
Source: 20 semi-structured interviews with consumers in Germany.
16
Multi-homing is the exception
Will eventually just one voice assistant answer all our questions, suggest music and our
life partners? If this were to become reality we would face a gatekeeper of a completely
different scale. In fact, parallel usage of voice assistants is rare: 78% of voice assistant
users rely on only one such system. However, as our analysis of usage patterns has
already highlighted, preferences for specific voice assistants differ among consumers.
The advent of one single voice assistant that is used ubiquitously will likely depend on
many factors. One such factor could be how well the competition between digital
ecosystems will function in the future. Furthermore, another deciding factor may be
whether third-party devices will tack on existing voice assistants or create their own
systems.
To assess future developments it should be kept in mind that the functions currently used
with voice assistants are quite limited. Moreover, Pocheron et al. (2018) find that today’s
voice assistants still have a long way to go to become true “conversational interfaces”.
Today, they are still limited to relatively simple input/output interactions. Mimicking
human interaction is however an essential key to success for voice assistants. The next
wave of innovation in voice assistants may thus completely overturn the current market
environment depending on which firm masters conversations first. As switching between
voice assistants is easy, very little would hold consumers back if one system emerges as
being qualitatively superior.
Finally, it is important to note that the relevance of multihoming across voice assistants
will strongly depend on the role these systems will take on in the future of human–
computer interaction. Using them as an effective substitute for entering commands
manually and finding essentially the same output on a screen of some kind will not
change much. If, however, future generations of voice assistants will actually integrate
various functions and services from today’s internet ecosystem, we have to address
potential lock-in effects and in particular the neutrality of these systems.
78%of users rely on only one
voice assistant
Source: Survey only users, n=816.
17
2
Future intentions to use voice assistants
Source: Survey;1Seee.g. Jiang, Jiepu, Wei Jeng, & Daqing He. 2013. "How DoUsers RespondtoVoiceInput Errors?: Lexical andPhonetic
Query Reformulation in VoiceSearch." 36th International ACM SIGIR ConferenceonResearch and Development in Information Retrieval,
Dublin, 28. July -01. August 2013.; Luger, Ewa, & AbigailSellen. 2016. "LikeHavingaReally BadPA": TheGulfbetween UserExpectationand
Experienceof Conversational Agents." 2016CHI Conferenceon HumanFactors inComputing Systems, SanJose, CA, 07.-12. May 2016.
%
of consumers who are aware
of voice assistants are inclined to
start using one in the next 12 months
So far, consumers use their voice assistant for menial tasks and actions. Variousstudies show that
they have to make an effort for their voice assistants to actually understand their commands.
Consumers have to pronounce everything correctly and find the right key words, otherwise
there will not be any reaction. That is annoying. Around one in five respondents have
tried voice assistants at least once but ceased their use. That happened mainly
because the systems, despite many technological advances in recent years,
still do not function as well as many consumers want them to do.
Recent increased attention to data leaks as well as underlying
fears of insufficient data protection with voice assistants do
nothing to improve the situation. German consumers in
particular may be put off by such news. Against this
backdrop, futureacceptanceof the new technology
and adoption of voice assistants may not
necessarily happen quickly (or at all) in
spite of the large pre-installed base.
However, should voice assistants manage to
achieve a level of comfort and functionality that
truly mimics human interaction, adoption rates could
reach an unprecedented pace. As 85% of consumers in
Germany already have a device at their disposal that has a
pre-installed voice assistant, they can simply start talking to it.
This could lead to an adoption rate close to what is usually considered
market saturation overnight.
18
About this study:
The online survey for this study was conducted with 3.184 consumers in November 2018 by the
international market research institute YouGov. The results were weighted to draw representative
conclusions for the German population (age 18+). Additionally, 20 qualitative interviews were
conducted in the autumn of 2018. The complete survey results are published in WIK discussion paper
No. 441 which can be ordered online at www.wik.org.
About WIK:
Founded in 1982, WIK (Wissenschaftliches Institut für Infrastruktur und Kommunikationsdienste) in
Bad Honnef, Germany offers consultancy for public and private clients around the world. Its focus is
on the telecommunication, Internet, post and energy sectors giving advice on policy, regulatory and
strategic issues. More information is available at: www.wik.org.
About Fresenius University of Applied Sciences:
With more than 11,000 students, as well as numerous national and international locations, Fresenius
University of Applied Sciences is one of the largest and most renowned private universities in
Germany. Practical, innovative study and training content, focusing on the requirements of the labour
market, with small study groups and well-known cooperation partners are just some of the many
advantages of the Hochschule Fresenius. With its headquarters in Idstein near Wiesbaden, the
Hochschule Fresenius can look back on almost 170 years of tradition.
More information is available at www.hs-fresenius.de.

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Canned Intelligence - Voice assistants in Germany

  • 1. Dr René Arnold Prof Dr Anna Schneider Canned Intelligence Voice assistants in Germany Research brief ‒ August 2019
  • 2. 2 Prof Dr Anna Schneider Professor of Business Psychology Contact: anna.schneider@hs-fresenius.de +49 (0)221 97 31 99 715 Hochschule Fresenius – Fachbereich Wirtschaft & Medien Business School · Media School · Psychology School Im Mediapark 4c 50670 Köln http://www.hs-fresenius.de General Manager: Prof. Dr. Tobias Engelsleben, Sascha Kappes, Kai Metzner Handelsregister: Amtsgericht WiesbadenHRB 19044 Authors of this study: Dr René Arnold Head of Department Markets and Perspectives Contact: r.arnold@wik.org +49 (0)2224 92 25 25 Contact details of the scientific institutes: WIK Wissenschaftliches Institut für Infrastruktur und Kommunikationsdienste GmbH Rhöndorfer Str. 68 53604 Bad Honnef, Germany Tel.: +49 2224 9225-0 Fax: +49 2224 9225-63 eMail: info(at)wik.org www.wik.org General Manager and Director: Dr IrisHenseler-Unger Chairpersonof the Supervisory Board: Dr Daniela Brönstrup Registered: Amtsgericht Siegburg, HRB 7225 Tax No.: 222/5751/0722 VAT No.: DE 123 383 795 Pictures: pawel-czerwinski-unsplash, scott-webb-unsplash, kevin-bhagat-unsplash, wim-van-t-einde-unsplash, boxed-water-is-better-unsplash, okwaeze-otusi-unsplash, revolt-unsplash, ben-kolde-unsplash; linus- rogge-JAn_aeGk_TM-unsplash; milad-sefidfard-SYmgYSC_Bio-unsplash, kev-costello-w3jVXGkYZCw- unsplash, charles-unsplash, stefan-cosma-unsplash, kaboompics. Imprint
  • 3. 3 Foreword Speechless no more!? Whether it’s Cortana, Google Assistant or Siri, voice assistants have found their way into our pockets and homes. Pre-installed on most current digital devices, they follow us everywhere we go. Ignoring them is easy, but switching them off completely can be difficult. No matter the operating system, voice assistants can hear our every command. One might think that this is good, because speech is humankind’s most natural interaction mode – very much unlike keyboards. But is that really true? Will voice interfaces really become the next pervasive technology in human–computer interaction? How will we use the various services on the internet in the future? Today, we are used to receiving long lists of results to any thinkable query, be it a product, restaurant or trivia search. The choicelies with us. Wedecide which source to trust, which product to purchase or which restaurant to visit. Despite long lists of results, which can be viewed, scrolled, filtered and sorted on ever larger screens, there is a heated debate about how Amazon, Apple, Google and other services rank their results. The Platform-to-Business Regulation and the New Deal for Consumers bear witness to this just as the current competition investigations into large tech firms do. If we were to increasingly rely on voice interfaces as the most common form of human–computer interaction, lists of results would have to become much shorter due to the specific affordances of voice interfaces. Thus, the choices would need to be made beforehand by service providers. Society on the other hand would have to think carefully about if we are willing to accept pre-selection and to what degree. The present research brief suggests that we should think about this sooner rather than later. Around 85% of consumers in Germany already have access to a device with a pre-installed voice assistant. Thus, we could face an adoption curve of unprecedented pace. So far, voice assistants still have a long way to go to become true conversational interfaces. The technology behind these systems however progresses quickly thanks to artificial intelligence. Competent authorities ought to monitor the developments closely. It’s reassuring though that, for the moment at least, consumers use voice assistants mostly for simple tasks. But will it stay that way? Dr Iris Henseler-Unger
  • 4. 4 Irgendeine nette Story – Zusammenfassung – Main findings Something like that or not? 85% of consumers in Germany have at least one device at their disposal that features a pre-installed voice assistant. At the moment, however, only 26% of consumers use them. Only a small minority of non-users intend to start conversing with Alexa, Siri and others over the next 12 months. While data protection concerns constitute a reason for consumers to refrain from relying on Alexa etc., the largest barrier seems to be the lack of conversational quality. A catch 22: To improve on functionality, convenience and conversational quality, a voice assistant must have access to contextual data about the consumer such as their current whereabouts. Only when consumers are willing to share such information will voice assistants likely fulfil the expectations set for them.
  • 5. 5 Introduction Back in 2010, Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, was the first of today’s popular systems to be introduced. Amazon and Microsoft followed in 2014 with Alexa and Cortana respectively. In 2016, Google introduced Google Assistant. Samsung’s Bixby is the most recent major voice assistant and was introduced in 2017. Due to short product cycles and regular software updates, the five companies can draw on an enormous number of consumer devices that feature the respective voice assistants. The figures below refer to the number of devices available to consumers globally that enable them to use voice assistant software. But how many consumers in Germany have got a voice assistant at home? How many actually make use of it? And what are the prevalent usage patterns? All these questions are addressed in the present research brief. To this end, we conducted a survey of 3,184 consumers in Germany and 20 semi-structured interviews with individual consumers of whom 11 were using voice assistants. Sources: 1 The Verge (2019) based on Google presse release; 2 onmsft (2018); 3 voicebot.ai (2018); 4 Apple (2018); 5 The Verge (2019) based on Amazon presentation for CES 2019 (only Echos). 1000. 700 500 500 100 Google Assistant1 Microsoft Cortana2 Samsung Bixby3 Apple Siri4 Amazon Alexa5 Pre-installed base in million devices globally
  • 6. 6 Adoption heute Laut unserer Befragung nutzen heute 26% der Kon- sumenten in Deutschland zumindest einmal im Monat einen Sprachassistenten. Etwa fünf Jahre nach der Markteinführung der Mehrheit der wesentlichen Systeme liegt die Adoptions-rate damit in einem ähnlichen Bereich wie die des Smartphones im Jahr 2012. International befindet sich Deutschland damit nicht unter den Ländern mit den höchsten Adoptionsraten. In Italien nutzen schon etwa doppelt so viele der Internetnutzer einen Sprachassistenten. Im Vereinigten Königreich und in Irland nutzt ebenfalls schon ein deutlich höherer Anteil der Internetnutzer diese Systeme als hierzulande. In den Niederlanden ist der Anteil der Nutzer von Sprachassistenten dagegen geringer. All das verblasst im Vergleich zu den Adoptionsraten von Alexa und Co. in asiatischen Ländern. In China und Indien verwendet inzwischen schon die deutliche Mehrheit der Internetnutzer Sprachassistenten. 26 A2a Anteil Nutzer von Sprachassistenten in Deutschland Sources: GlobalWebIndex and survey=3.184. % Niederlande Irland UK Italien Voice assistant adoption today Accordingto our survey, 26% of consumers in Germany currently use a voice assistant at least once a month. Around five years after the most prominent systems were introduced, their uptake is similar to the adoption of smartphones in Germany in 2012. Within Europe, Germany is not among the countries with the highest uptake of voice assistants. In Italy, roughly twice as many consumers use voice assistants. In the UK and Ireland, a substantially larger share of consumers rely on voice assistants than in Germany. Consumers in the Netherlands on the other hand seem less inclined than Germans to use Alexa, Siri and similar systems. Compared to Asia, voice assistant adoption in any European country is in its infancy. In China and India, the vast majority of internet users also utilise voice assistants. 26 Share of voice assistant users by country % Netherlands Ireland UK Italy Germany
  • 7. 7 % 7%7% 8%2 9%2 9%6 50% 25% 75% Pre-installed base and relative uptake of voice assistants in % Pre-installed base share of population* Cortana Bixby Google Assistant Siri Alexa Source: Survey n=3.184. *Cortana: 59% ; Bixby 8%;GoogleAssistant 43% ; Siri 24% ; Alexa13%. 85% Share of consumers who have a device with a pre-installed voice assistant at their disposal Unlike smartphones, consumers do not have to make any additional effort or incur expense to use a voice assistant. Around 85% of consumers in Germany already have a device at their disposal that features a pre-installed voice assistant. To become voice assistant users, all they have to do is start voicing their requests. Consequently, we might see an unprecedented increase in the uptake as soon as consumers feel that voice assistants meet their needs. As the figure on the right illustrates, the share of users who have a voice-assistant-enabled device at their disposal varies substantially, depending on the specific system. Alexa has the highest relative uptake as 69% of consumers who have a corresponding device at home are actually using the voice assistant. However, no other voice assistant is as closely linked to so-called voice-firstdevices (e.g. Amazon Echo). The voice assistants by Google and Apple are neck and neck in terms of their actual uptake shares. In terms of total users, Google benefits from its much larger penetration of devices. The voice assistants provided by Microsoft and Samsung lag behind with a mere relative uptake of 7%.
  • 8. 8 Will I need an umbrella today? Despite the wealth of functions offered by voice assistants today, retrieving information from the internet about the latest weather reports, sport results or celebrity trivia remains the most popular function among the users of voice assistants. The majority of the remaining nine functions that Alexa, Bixby, Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri share are used by the users of the respective systems at roughly the same frequency. Around 40% of consumers use voice assistants for setting an alarm clock, music playback or calls. Only around one in five voice assistant users links external devices to the system in order to control them remotely. Only 8% of respondents have hailed a taxi via a voice assistant. While preferred functions follow a general common pattern across voice assistants, some marked differences emerge. Alexa, for instance, is much more likely than the other voice assistants to be used for music playback. Notably, this happens on the integrated streaming service Amazon Music just as often as on third-party streaming services such as Spotify. Source: Survey n=816. *Cortana: 59% ; Bixby 8%;GoogleAssistant 43% ; Siri 24% ; Alexa13%. Functions used by [..] % of users Unlike other digital services, consumers in the age group 35 to 44 are the ones who use voice assistants in the most versatile manner. They use 4.1 functions on average. The youngest age group in our sample (18 to 24) only used 3.5 functions. That is only slightly more than users who are 55 and older, who use 3.2 functions of their voice assistants. In general, Alexa users have the most versatile usage pattern. They use 4.2 functions on average. Across all voice assistants, only 3.5 functions are used. Cortana users utilise particularly few functions – only 2.4 on average. There is a notable correlation between the number of functions used and the age of the user. Playingmusic(onathird-party musicstreamingservice) 36 Settingcalendarevents 37 Playingmusic(onthebundled/ integratedmusicstreamingservice) 40 Controllingthedeviceonwhich thevoiceassistantisinstalled 41 Settingreminders 42 Settinganalarm 42 Seekinginformationonline(weather,sportsresults,etc.) 72 Callingsomeone (communicationsfeature) 36 Hailing ataxi 8 Linkingother devicestocontrol themremotely 20
  • 9. 9 Voice assistants and online shopping Although online shopping features prominently both in marketing and policy contexts as a key function of voice assistants, only Alexa users can actually purchase online directly via their voice assistant. At least in Germany, the other systems do not offer this function. Even with Alexa, the specific user has to be a Prime subscriber and have OneClick activated in order to make purchases directly via Alexa. Around half of the Alexa users in our sample meet these criteria. Among them only around 50% stated that they had purchased something online via Alexa in the past. When they did it, the dominant usage pattern was to request the product and have Alexa read out the list of specific product suggestions until one was mentioned that met the users’ needs. Only a minority of Alexa shoppers fully trust the assistant to make the product choice. It is likely that this usage pattern is particularly prevalent for habitual purchases. 21% of Alexa users have purchased something online via Alexa. 21% mentioned a product and Alexa ordered it directly. 30% knew exactly what they wanted and asked for a very specific product that they ordered via Alexa. 49% mentioned a product and had Alexa read out the list of results until they arrived at the specific product they were looking for. ofthose Source: Survey n=816. *Cortana: 59% ; Bixby 8%;GoogleAssistant 43% ; Siri 24% ; Alexa13%.
  • 10. 10 Voicing gender concerns A recently published study by the United Nations addresses in detail the potential challenges emerging from the obvious gender bias apparent in voice assistants. Users can choose a male voice with Bixby, Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri. However, a voice clearly recognisable as female remains the default. Alexa does not offer the option to switch to a male voice. Notably, there is a ”skill” for that. According to its reviews, the skill does not quite meet users’ expectations as it is very cumbersome to use. Thus, western, white and male role models are being multiplied and manifested by interactions with voice assistants when they ought to be broken up. 8%of voice assistant users have switched from a female to a male voice 1 United Nations (2019): SSSS. 2 https://www.genderlessvoice.com/ . Source: Survey n=816. Without consideration of those who indicated ‚don’t knowt/not specified’. *Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana und Bixby. Unlike the EQUALS Coalition respondents who were cited in the United Nations study, in our survey just 5% of male respondents stated that they have switched their voice assistants to a male voice. Almost twice as many female respondents did the same (9%). Researchers from Denmark point to a possible solution. In March 2019, they introduced “Q”, the first completely gender-neutral artificial voice. If this catches on, voice assistants could not only prevent traditional gender roles from being multiplied, but also help to question binary gender stereotypes in daily life.
  • 11. 11 Without consideration of those whoindicated ‚don’t knowt/not specified‘. Rather rare: Oncein the last month and once a week. Rather regularly: Twice or three times a week, More than three times a week. Rather frequently: Oncea day, Several times a day. 1 Survey n=272; 2 Survey n=388; 3 Survey n=233. Frequency of voice assistant use Google2 Siri3 Alexa1 Talk to me Alexa is the most frequently used voice assistant. Half of its users speak to it at least once a day. Siri and Google Assistant areused muchless frequently in comparison. The majority of their users rarely use their functions. Approximately one inthree consumers who own a voice assistant uses them twice or threetimes a week. Surprisingly, consumers in the age group 35 to 44 are the ones who use voice assistants most frequently. Among them, Alexa users are also the most engaged voice assistant users. More than half of the users(56%) inthisage group speak daily with Alexa. In the same age group, Siri is also used quite frequently with 41% of respondents reported to use this system regularly. Google Assistant lags behind in terms of usage frequency.Only one infour users utilizes the system daily. In particular, 18- to 34-year-olds are the age group with the lowest usage frequency. Among them 49% use Google Assistant rather seldomly.
  • 12. 12 Attitudes towards voice assistants 0 5 10 Non-users Users It is particularly interesting that both groups concur in their perception of voice assistants being at least somewhat sales-oriented and persuasive. This shows that consumers do not approach this new technology naively. . In our survey, we asked both users as well as non-users of voice assistants about their attitudes towards these systems. Users appear to value in particular the time they think they can save by using a voice assistant. They perceive these systems as useful and user-friendly. Both groups do not feel restricted by the new technology. Non-users however perceive voice assistants as less independent and less trustworthy than their users. Mean agreement from 0 (totally disagree) to 10 (totally agree). Voice assistants are ... user-friendly time-saving restrictive useful independent persuasive sales-oriented needs-centered trustworthy innovative
  • 13. 13 Mean agreement from 0 (totally disagree) to 10 (totally agree). 5 10 Alexa Google Assistant Siri Non-users Users In a direct comparison to Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri show that their users’ attitudes follow a similar pattern. Siri differs substantially from the other assistants as it is seen as less sales-oriented and less persuasive than the other two. This is not surprising as consumers make the link between Google’s Assistant und Amazon’s Alexa and these companies focus on online marketing and online sales respectively. At the same time, Siri is perceived as less tailored to one’s needs. The strategy of its competitors to provide individualized results appears to be paying off. Non-users’ attitudes towards voice assistants are on average less positive than users of voice assistants. Comparing the three main competing systems, we find that non-users – like users – perceive Alexa to be particularly sales-oriented. At the same time, Alexa is seen as somewhat less trustworthy than other voice assistants. Whether this has any effect on non-users’ future choice of a voice assistant is however unclear. Currently, Amazon Echo devices are still seeing substantial growth of their sales. 0 user-friendly time-saving restrictive useful independent persuasive sales-oriented needs-centered trustworthy innovative user-friendly time-saving restrictive useful independent persuasive sales-oriented needs-centered trustworthy innovative
  • 14. 14 Why did you stop using voice assistants? * Referring to the voiceassistant that is actually used. Source: Survey N=634. Around one in five consumers in Germany has tried engaging with a voice assistant at least once. However, they ceased using the technology eventually. The reasons for this revolve typically around the technology itself. A total of 32% of respondents stated that they have stopped using voice assistants because their voice commands were not recognized properly or even not at all, while 23% felt the technology was not reliable enough. Just as many consumers felt uncomfortable speaking to a machine, and this was followed by data protectionconcernsfrom former voice assistant users or consumers who have tried using them. Time’s up Voicecommandsarenotrecognized Iamuncomfortablespeakingtoamachine Idon‘tthinkvoiceassistantsarereliableenough Ifearthatmydatawillbesharedwithathirdparty Idon’ttrustvoiceassistants Iamafraidofbeingtapped Ithinkthedevicesaretooexpensive Idon’twanttospendtoomuchofmy(mobile)dataallowance Idon’twanttospendtimeonthistechnology Otherreasons 32% 23% 23% 19% 19% 16% 10% 10% 9% 11% While 19% said they did not trust the technology or feared their data might be shared with a third party, 16% were explicitly afraid of being tapped if they had a voice assistant in their homes. The price of devices or the additional data required when using them on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets played only a minor role in causing voice assistant usage to cease.
  • 15. 15 The 20 qualitative interviews conducted for the present research brief echo the reasons elicited from respondents in the survey: “At first you think it [using a voice assistant] is totally cool and it’s perfect. You think it will all work, but in fact it’s rarely quicker. Often it is not precise enough and then you simply lose interest.”(Patrick, 20) “You often have to use commands that are not flexible. It would have to be much more flexible, so that the voice assistant really understands me.” (Bennett, 27) “Switching from German to English is a pain. Then she [the voice assistant] does not understand ‘Good Wife’sometimes, because it is an English term. But the series is simply called that. You simply can’t get around English in German.” (Ann-Kathrin, 24) The interviews further illustrate that voice commands at least outside of the protected private space of one’s home and in particular in social situations can be perceived as negative: “It’s just frustratingbecause it simply kills the atmosphere, when everyone sits there and is talking to their phones.” (Sabine, 68) “I think that using voice assistants is not yet fully accepted. Like walking in the city and speaking to your phone, giving voice commands.”(Philip, 25) “I think it’s because I have never really seen anyone doing it [giving voice commands in public]. That would draw quite some attention.” (Chalida, 20) Source: 20 semi-structured interviews with consumers in Germany.
  • 16. 16 Multi-homing is the exception Will eventually just one voice assistant answer all our questions, suggest music and our life partners? If this were to become reality we would face a gatekeeper of a completely different scale. In fact, parallel usage of voice assistants is rare: 78% of voice assistant users rely on only one such system. However, as our analysis of usage patterns has already highlighted, preferences for specific voice assistants differ among consumers. The advent of one single voice assistant that is used ubiquitously will likely depend on many factors. One such factor could be how well the competition between digital ecosystems will function in the future. Furthermore, another deciding factor may be whether third-party devices will tack on existing voice assistants or create their own systems. To assess future developments it should be kept in mind that the functions currently used with voice assistants are quite limited. Moreover, Pocheron et al. (2018) find that today’s voice assistants still have a long way to go to become true “conversational interfaces”. Today, they are still limited to relatively simple input/output interactions. Mimicking human interaction is however an essential key to success for voice assistants. The next wave of innovation in voice assistants may thus completely overturn the current market environment depending on which firm masters conversations first. As switching between voice assistants is easy, very little would hold consumers back if one system emerges as being qualitatively superior. Finally, it is important to note that the relevance of multihoming across voice assistants will strongly depend on the role these systems will take on in the future of human– computer interaction. Using them as an effective substitute for entering commands manually and finding essentially the same output on a screen of some kind will not change much. If, however, future generations of voice assistants will actually integrate various functions and services from today’s internet ecosystem, we have to address potential lock-in effects and in particular the neutrality of these systems. 78%of users rely on only one voice assistant Source: Survey only users, n=816.
  • 17. 17 2 Future intentions to use voice assistants Source: Survey;1Seee.g. Jiang, Jiepu, Wei Jeng, & Daqing He. 2013. "How DoUsers RespondtoVoiceInput Errors?: Lexical andPhonetic Query Reformulation in VoiceSearch." 36th International ACM SIGIR ConferenceonResearch and Development in Information Retrieval, Dublin, 28. July -01. August 2013.; Luger, Ewa, & AbigailSellen. 2016. "LikeHavingaReally BadPA": TheGulfbetween UserExpectationand Experienceof Conversational Agents." 2016CHI Conferenceon HumanFactors inComputing Systems, SanJose, CA, 07.-12. May 2016. % of consumers who are aware of voice assistants are inclined to start using one in the next 12 months So far, consumers use their voice assistant for menial tasks and actions. Variousstudies show that they have to make an effort for their voice assistants to actually understand their commands. Consumers have to pronounce everything correctly and find the right key words, otherwise there will not be any reaction. That is annoying. Around one in five respondents have tried voice assistants at least once but ceased their use. That happened mainly because the systems, despite many technological advances in recent years, still do not function as well as many consumers want them to do. Recent increased attention to data leaks as well as underlying fears of insufficient data protection with voice assistants do nothing to improve the situation. German consumers in particular may be put off by such news. Against this backdrop, futureacceptanceof the new technology and adoption of voice assistants may not necessarily happen quickly (or at all) in spite of the large pre-installed base. However, should voice assistants manage to achieve a level of comfort and functionality that truly mimics human interaction, adoption rates could reach an unprecedented pace. As 85% of consumers in Germany already have a device at their disposal that has a pre-installed voice assistant, they can simply start talking to it. This could lead to an adoption rate close to what is usually considered market saturation overnight.
  • 18. 18 About this study: The online survey for this study was conducted with 3.184 consumers in November 2018 by the international market research institute YouGov. The results were weighted to draw representative conclusions for the German population (age 18+). Additionally, 20 qualitative interviews were conducted in the autumn of 2018. The complete survey results are published in WIK discussion paper No. 441 which can be ordered online at www.wik.org. About WIK: Founded in 1982, WIK (Wissenschaftliches Institut für Infrastruktur und Kommunikationsdienste) in Bad Honnef, Germany offers consultancy for public and private clients around the world. Its focus is on the telecommunication, Internet, post and energy sectors giving advice on policy, regulatory and strategic issues. More information is available at: www.wik.org. About Fresenius University of Applied Sciences: With more than 11,000 students, as well as numerous national and international locations, Fresenius University of Applied Sciences is one of the largest and most renowned private universities in Germany. Practical, innovative study and training content, focusing on the requirements of the labour market, with small study groups and well-known cooperation partners are just some of the many advantages of the Hochschule Fresenius. With its headquarters in Idstein near Wiesbaden, the Hochschule Fresenius can look back on almost 170 years of tradition. More information is available at www.hs-fresenius.de.