By Nithya Thadani, CEO of RAIN

In a moment when consumers are more aware than ever of the dangers of touch, voice technology offers a hands-free solution with a unique opportunity to support the public and combat the virus.

In China and South Korea, we have ​already seen​ voice take hold as a primary channel in assisting in the fight against Coronavirus. Use cases for voice are beginning to emerge throughout the U.S, along with ​new perspectives​ on how voice can provide the most value during this time.

Here are three core emerging areas where voice offers human-centered solutions to this emergency:

Providing Information (and Preventing Misinformation)

Since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve seen a spike in ​resources published ​on voice app platforms designed to arm people with critical information they need. We have also seen big tech companies who power these voice assistants step up by ​combating misinformation​ and ​directing voice traffic​ to official CDC guidelines. This oversight is particularly crucial given the singular and authoritative nature of voice search.

Beyond informing the public on outbreak status, we’ll begin to see greater usage of assistants for information on both a functional level (assisting with work-from-home tasks, calendar scheduling, supplies coordination) and an emotional one (guidance on managing isolation, grief and mental wellness) throughout this period.

Combating the Virus

Recognizing an imminent need to support healthcare professionals on the front lines, voice-first healthcare companies have quickly implemented new infrastructure to help screen for and detect infections. Likewise, health technology groups are ​extending digital toolkits​ to be accessible across new platforms including voice assistants​. Critically, these services will begin to help healthcare providers better manage the flow of inquiries and triage those who need to be treated urgently.

We are also seeing advancements in the AI technology to meet the needs of this health crisis. While it’s still early days for voice health forensics, there are researchers working on using voice patterns to detect and diagnose illness, which could have outsized impact when you consider respiratory illnesses like the one we’re facing. These advancements lay the foundation for new voice applications in healthcare.

Productivity at Home

As a byproduct of the COVID-19 crisis, a majority of the population is now spending time quarantining at home, where smart speakers live. With consumers increasing both time and spend on media during this time, smart speakers and voice assistants have an opportunity to bring tools and utilities to market that can afford real value in our new homebound reality.  

From recipes to home workouts to children’s edu-tainment, ​Google​ and Amazon have already begun curating resources to engage and entertain families at home. Likewise, voice will no doubt have an prevalent role to play in the new work from home dynamic as technology becomes vital to collaboration and productivity from home. In today’s sudden work life imbalance, voice offers a natural and touch-free interface to access content and connect with others.

From turbulence comes innovation. The temporary shifts we’re seeing to consumer behavior today will have staying power in the future. Companies can either embrace these shifts or be mired by them. There has never been a greater opportunity than right now to discover and serve new consumer needs. 

Nithya Thadani is the CEO of RAIN, a firm specializing in voice strategy, design and development.

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