When we started Aiqudo less than a year ago, we were focused on voice as the next big thing in tech, a UI that has the potential to be the most profound and disruptive change in consumer technology to date. Being a Silicon Valley company, we naturally focused on how voice could impact our world — savvy tech users who wanted the easiest, fastest way possible to use their technology, and the changes natural language voice could bring about for businesses serving us: voice search, voice commerce, hands free apps while driving, etc.
But as we work with partners who are focused on global deployments across multiple languages, we’re coming to realize that voice could have a much more far-reaching impact. When interacting with technology becomes completely seamless and intuitive, we will extend access to technology to billions of new users in emerging markets where mobile internet devices have arrived but where language or literacy issues may present barriers to usage.
Today, mobile carriers are pushing hard to capture new users in these frontier markets, offering inexpensive Android phones with unlimited data plans and putting internet connections into more hands than ever. Voice interfaces, localized for languages and for locale-specific apps, will unlock the final accessibility challenge for these users, allowing the benefits of the internet to reach far deeper into many societies that have until now been on the other side of the digital divide. Voice has the potential to become the universal interface to the digital world.
New users and a new user interface will certainly mean new entry points and new modalities of use for a broad range of established businesses. Industries that VCs would consider over with, done, un-investable in developed markets will be up for grabs again, and serving billions of users. We’ll see new business models, serving localized needs with localized solutions — this won’t be a walkover for the established incumbents. The next disruption is likely to have its roots far from Silicon Valley.
These are the next billion internet users, and voice is the interface that will power their digital experience.