There may be a predicted 12.6 million smart speaker users in the UK* and more than 100,000 Alexa skills launched since the Amazon Echo entered our homes five years ago, but Brits are seriously lacking in imagination when it comes to the tasks it requests of Alexa (and friends), according to new research by voice experts at a leading digital experience agency.

The consumer survey by  Code Computerlove part of Mediacom North has discovered that despite 7 in 10 people in the UK now using a voice assistant every single day (up from 4 in 10 in 2018), the most commonly requested task is still for it to play music (80 per cent), followed by news and weather reports (61 per cent). A quarter of Brits also use it as a timer.

Only one in ten of those questioned have used their smart speaker to assist with shopping, just eight per cent have tasked it with ordering them a takeaway and only four per cent have used it to book a cab – all tasks that this emerging technology is more than capable of.

That doesn’t even touch on some of the highly immersive and useful voice skills that people can access.

Code’s Voice Specialist Duncan Bloor said: “It is clear that voice assistant usage in the UK is on the rise and our research shows that this technology is being adopted and embraced by people of all ages. A third (32 per cent) of people in the UK now own more than one smart speaker, according to the research.

“But despite high volumes of people owning voice devices and claim to use them everyday, what is also clear is that there is still a long way to go for users to truly get the most out of what these smart devices can offer. Quite simply, playing music or asking for a weather report, is the tip of the iceberg in this space.

“We have been closely watching the rise in popularity of voice assistants and voice controlled devices for a number of years. As this research reinforces, our long-held belief that voice technology is soon set to play an integral part of our day-to-day lives.

“But there appears to be a gulf between the possibilities of voice and reality. Companies are optimising for voice search and developing voice-powered experiences, but are perhaps not marketing these as effectively as they do on screens.

“One potential (and obvious) barrier to this sector, which was highlighted by the research, was that of privacy and trust. More than three quarters (77 per cent) of those surveyed were concerned at the prospect of these devices listening to and storing their conversation and a quarter (23%) claimed that they were discouraged from using it because of this. Clearly this is an area that needs to be addressed before the mass market fully embrace this technology – something which all digital platforms (not just voice) must not ignore.

“Despite this, we are encouraged by the research results and look forward to seeing what 2020 will bring in this space and the future possibilities of voice control.”

Five ways voice assistants can improve your life...

Code’s Voice Specialist Duncan Bloor, shares five simple hacks for getting more out of your voice assistant.

It can find your keys, wallet, phone (or anything else you ask it to)

If you’re guilty of always putting things (e.g. your passport) ‘somewhere safe’ only to completely forget where they are, then your voice assistant can help you. All you need to do is ask it to remember where you left it and it will remind you when asked. Taking this one step further you can attach RFID devices to things you misplace regularly (e.g. your keys or wallet) and then ask Alexa or Google to find them for you. Your phone can also easily be linked to your smart speaker – you can then ask it to ring it for you if it’s lost in the house. Invaluable if you’re home alone!

It can read your kids a bedtime story

Whilst we aren’t suggesting that you get Alexa or Google to read your child a bedtime story every night, this particular skill could come in handy on those nights when the pleas for ‘just one more story’ won’t subside. You can even tailor stories to your own children by customising the names in them.

It can become an at home PT or meditation guru

Alexa and Google can provide you with lots of options for guided workouts that you can do at home. Just tell your voice assistant what type of workout you want to do that day and it will talk you through a gym session. Or if you’re in need of unwinding after a hard day, use your smart speaker to serve up a guided mediation. And if you own a smart tap it will even run a bath or turn on the shower for you after!

It can order you a pizza

Dominos is ahead of the game when it comes to offering multi-device ways to order pizza. With Google and Alexa you can build a new Dominos order from scratch, place your ‘Easy Order’ or re-order your most recent Dominos. Once the order has been placed your smart speaker will track your order for you too. Not to be outdone, Pizza Hut also offers this functionality

It can tell you when your favourite artist releases new music

Playing music might be one of the nation’s favourite things to do with a smart speaker but you can also use it in a much more interactive way. You can ask Alexa to follow your favourite artist and to notify you when they release new music. You can also help the device hone your personal preferences by telling it what you like and dislike. Asking it to personally recommend music to you is also a great way of broadening your musical repertoire.

For more insights on Voice Assistants  https://www.codecomputerlove.com/blog/voice-assistant-survey-2019