Voice control in the future workplace

With the introduction of Amazon Echo we seem to have taken a step forwards in voice control of devices and of our interaction with the internet. It therefore seems likely that at some point in the future, companies will start to offer products that introduce this way of interacting into the workplace. Some commentators have already suggested that we have reached “peak keyboard”.

Amazon Echo

What does it mean for our workspace if we have to start talking to our devices in the future? There is already a rising backlash against open plan offices as places where many of us struggle to get work done because of distraction from people talking around us. For more introvert personalities, these open plan spaces are a problem as the sensory overload makes them stressful and de-energising places to be.

On the face of it, voice control only seems to be a technology that will make this worse.

The film, Her, is often cited in discussions about the future of voice interaction. In the film, voice interaction is used in a work setting but looking at the office design it hardly represents the dense packing of people seen in most current offices!

Workspace from the film, Her

Workspace from the film, Her

However, if we move away from the open plan or find new ways to create aural privacy, then perhaps this technology could be made to work. Noice cancelling technology is already out there, notably in headphones, as are methods to address noise masking (which is different).

As with any new technology, there will be a bumpy road as we find ways to make it work and adapt.


David Watts

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