The conversation with Alexa, Siri, and other non-human helpers is only beginning. A recent story in AdWeek offered a glimpse into the digital future, and the statistics show that voice- recognition software will be dominating the conversation. The article reveals that there will be approximately 7.5 billion digital assistants by 2021 (more than then number of people currently on the planet, which will scare anyone already concerned that robots will actually take over the world). Today, some smartphone users already have close relationships with the voices behind their screens: Sixty-two percent of respondents in a Speakeasy report said they loved their voice assistants so much that they wished they were real people.
Humans falling in love with digital voices may spark another debate, but changing consumer behaviors will surely translate to attendee behaviors. For example, 52 percent of shoppers want a voice assistant to help them navigate and find products while they’re in a physical store — and the retail environment is not too dissimilar to large convention centers and expo halls. Instead of searching maps in mobile apps, attendees will likely prefer an assistant who can reassuringly say, “Turn around and take the escalator to level two. Turn right, and walk one-tenth of a mile. Room 201B will be in front of you.”
Navigation seems like one of the most basic functions supported by digital assistants, but the surest way to attendees’ hearts may not be by helping them find their way, but through their stomachs. Sixty-seven percent of smartphone users like the idea of being able to ask details about the origins of products, and that same idea could revolutionize mealtime. Think about an environment where attendees can ask whether the kitchen in the facility is nut-free, or imagine a future where they can snap a photo of their plates and their assistants will offer approximate calorie counts before they pick up their forks.
These on-site technology enhancements may not arrive tomorrow, but the next generation of attendees will want to use them sooner than many might expect. By 2019, nearly 40 percent of Millennials will use a digital assistant at least once a month, and by 2020, 30 percent of web browsing will be done without a screen. The behavior shifts point to a future where the glow of smartphone screens will be replaced by the hum of smart assistants in session rooms and trade show booths. Hotels are already embracing the change. Check out “How the Voice-Recognition Revolution Is Changing Hotels.”