Voice Assistant (VA)

What is a Voice Assistant?

Voice Assistants (VA) are a combination of technologies that include natural language processing (NLP), voice recognition, and voice synthesis to communicate with its users using natural language. 

Voice assistants are commonly confused with virtual assistants, an umbrella term encompassing various types of agents that perform different tasks and individual services. Although virtual assistants can perform similar tasks, they are not entirely synonymous with one another.

The main differences these agents have lies in the way we interact with them. For example, chatbots are a text-based virtual assistant that simulates human-like conversations with users. On the other hand, voice assistants are virtual assistants that use natural speech to resolve queries and interact with users.

How do Voice Assistants Interact with Users?

The critical components here are: wake words. Assistants always listen for wake words such as “Hey, Siri” and “Ok Google” that trigger their initiation. 

Wake words are built using a special algorithm that listens for a specific word that will ‘wake’ the device in order for it to begin communicating with a server to do its task. 

Wake words are quite specific. They must be unique enough to not be spoken out in everyday conversation, easy enough for people to pronounce, and simple enough for a machine to recognize them. For this reason, people cannot be chosen and personalized by individual users.

Nevertheless, these wake words aren’t exactly ‘understood’ by voice assistants. Voice assistants must work hand in hand with natural language processing to decipher a user’s command by interpreting natural language. 

Drawbacks of Voice Assistants

As the integration of voice assistants within users’ daily lives continues to grow, it is only natural for some to feel reluctant to fully accept them. 


People mainly fear the lack of privacy that comes with the use of a voice assistant. Smart speakers, while waiting to receive a wake word, are always listening. However, smart speakers do not begin recording what you say until you say the wake word. Meanwhile, smartphones do not necessarily require a wake word to trigger its activation. Whenever one presses a button on a smartphone, it automatically activates the voice assistant, and once awake, the smartphone begins recording snippets of what you say. These snippets are what the device sends to the server to break down and analyze in order to help it understand the language and formulate natural responses to future queries. 


Voice assistants can sometimes cause frustration when the device continuously fails to understand what the user is saying. Whether it be because of differing accents, slang, or simply the device’s premature state of understanding, it can put users off the idea of using them on a consistent basis.


Although the servers with which voice assistants communicate with use encrypted connections, users still feel incredibly concerned with the possibility of their device being hacked and their private information being at risk. Additionally, someone besides you could potentially speak to your assistant on your behalf. If this occurs, they can access your information without your consent and begin carrying out actions such as purchasing products. This security breach can be mitigated through identifying not only the wake word but the person’s unique voice. 

Voice assistants continue to improve over time, becoming more intelligent and capable of understanding more language nuances, refining its ability to respond more accurately and naturally than ever before. 

Voice Assistant Use Cases

Voice assistants have become increasingly integrated into various aspects of our lives. Here’s a list of common use cases for voice assistants:


Information Retrieval:

      • Asking about the weather forecast.
      • Finding answers to general knowledge questions.
      • Getting news updates and headlines.
      • Querying facts, figures, and statistics.

Smart Home Control:

      • Turning lights on/off.
      • Adjusting thermostat settings.
      • Controlling smart plugs and switches.
      • Locking/unlocking doors.
      • Managing security cameras.


      • Playing music from streaming services.
      • Controlling video playback on smart TVs.
      • Recommending movies or TV shows.
      • Setting alarms and timers.

Productivity and Organization:

      • Setting reminders for tasks and events.
      • Creating and managing to-do lists.
      • Scheduling appointments and meetings.
      • Sending text messages or emails.
      • Dictating notes and messages.

Navigation and Travel:

      • Getting directions to a specific location.
      • Finding nearby restaurants, gas stations, etc.
      • Checking traffic conditions and estimated travel time.
      • Booking rideshare services or taxis.

Health and Fitness:

      • Tracking daily steps and activity.
      • Setting workout routines.
      • Finding healthy recipes.
      • Reminding to take medications.

Shopping and E-commerce:

      • Adding items to a shopping list.
      • Placing orders for products online.
      • Tracking shipments and deliveries.
      • Comparing prices and product reviews.

Language Translation:

      • Translating phrases and sentences.
      • Learning new languages and practicing pronunciation.

Education and Learning:

      • Getting definitions and explanations.
      • Providing math and science calculations.
      • Assisting with homework and research.


      • Helping visually impaired users with tasks.
      • Assisting users with motor disabilities.
      • Reading out text and notifications.

Cooking and Recipes:

      • Providing cooking instructions and recipes.
      • Suggesting meal ideas based on available ingredients.
      • Setting timers for cooking.

Social Media and Communication:

      • Posting updates on social media platforms.
      • Checking messages and notifications.
      • Making voice and video calls.

Wellness and Relaxation:

      • Guided meditation and relaxation exercises.
      • Playing soothing sounds or music.
      • Providing mental health tips and resources.

Finance and Banking:

      • Checking account balances and recent transactions.
      • Paying bills and transferring funds.
      • Providing stock market updates.

Trivia and Games:

      • Playing trivia quizzes and word games.
      • Running interactive storytelling adventures.

Home Automation:

      • Controlling smart appliances like coffee makers, vacuum cleaners, etc.

Driving Assistance:

    • Getting hands-free navigation instructions while driving.
    • Making calls and sending messages without taking your hands off the wheel.


These are just some of the many use cases for voice assistants. The capabilities of voice assistants are constantly evolving, and they are being integrated into a wide range of devices and services to make our lives more convenient and efficient.

Recent Developments in Voice Assistant Technology

Voice assistant technology is constantly evolving, and there have been a number of recent developments that are making voice assistants more powerful and versatile. Here are a few of the most notable recent developments:


  • Improved natural language processing (NLP): NLP is the technology that allows voice assistants to understand human language. Recent advances in NLP have made it possible for voice assistants to understand more complex and nuanced language queries.
  • Multimodality: Multimodality is the ability to interact with a device through multiple channels, such as voice, text, and images. Recent developments in multimodality are making it possible for voice assistants to understand and respond to a wider range of user input.
  • Embedded security features: Voice assistants are increasingly being used to access sensitive information, such as financial data and medical records. Recent developments in embedded security features are making it more difficult for unauthorized users to access this information.
  • Improved accuracy: Voice assistants are becoming more accurate in understanding and responding to user requests. This is due to a number of factors, including improved NLP, more training data, and better hardware.

Here are two specific examples of recent developments in voice assistant technology:


  • In 2023, Amazon released a new version of its Alexa voice assistant that is more accurate and responsive than previous versions. The new version of Alexa also supports a wider range of commands, including the ability to control smart home devices and make payments.
  • Apple also released a new version of its Siri voice assistant in 2023. The new version of Siri is more accurate and responsive than previous versions, and it also supports a wider range of languages.

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