Vijayalaxmi Hegde

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India’s Voice: The Next Frontier in Localization

Indians love to talk. Talking and listening is how we learn, do business, find out about things – in short, lead our lives. We’d much rather ask someone for information rather than read up on it.

And now, we have begun to talk to our devices. And how! Hindi is the second most used voice on Google Assistant globally. We have been using voice to search for things, get tasks done on our devices, and more. Since the pandemic, voice technologies have found new space in our lives as they enable contactless experiences.

For us in the localization world, voice is exciting. It’s a new frontier. It brings new opportunities and, of course, challenges.

Voice is exciting because of what it enables:

1. It’s three times faster than typing.

2. Even people who are not gadget-savvy can handle voice-led tools.

3. It’s especially relevant to people with limited literacy and older people.

4. Voice can go where video cannot. In network-limited situations, a voice message or a voice-led interaction is still possible, while you might not be able to use video.

Voice brings many opportunities:

Voice can create a level playing field on the Internet, which text-led technologies can never do. People of all ages and geographies can conduct a voice transaction, as it mimics a conversation.

What does this mean in terms of the opportunities it opens up? It can give a huge boost to e-commerce growth as a majority of the smartphones are equipped to handle voice technology. Even people accessing the Internet for the first time can quickly start engaging in e-commerce.

Voice assistants can guide people in their purchase decisions on an e-commerce portal. It comes close to building a human connection with a brand and can help in building a strong brand recall.

Apart from e-commerce, voice has an important role to play in the fields of edutech, medical, travel, and so on. For instance, universities have begun to install voice-guided assistants to help students find things on campus. Students are listening to podcasts to catch up with lectures they might have missed. Students can even take a viva or an oral examination remotely because of voice technologies.

In the medical field, doctors can use voice to record their notes while they continue to focus on the patient. Touch screen monitors with voice recognition software in every patient room can soon be here. Doctors and staff can use the tool to quickly record the patient’s daily readings and access it easily as well.

But opportunities come with challenges, and that’s the fun part. In the Indian context, it’s mainly to do with the multitude of languages for which voice technologies have to be trained. Because a conversation can be free-flowing, a user might bring in un-recognized words, accents, and other languages, too, leaving voice recognition tools flummoxed.

In a single sentence, there might be more than one language with no standard grammatical construction.

There’s also the problem of background noise, which would invariably exist if a voice-led app needs to be used outdoors.

Lastly, the technology itself will have to be kept affordable for mass adoption.

Localization providers have an important role to play in bringing voice in Indian languages to every device. Voice recognition software must be as viable and efficient in every Indian language as it is in English. App developers must work in sync with localization companies to understand the nuances of how Indians use voice and accordingly design tools.

This story is rapidly developing. Keep your ears open to know more.