If you stop and think about it, today’s term may come as a surprise to you – not as a technological innovation, but in how much we utilize it without realizing it. Here’s an example: when was the last time you typed your address into a website to get the local weather? Likely, you don’t remember, because you’ve become accustomed to simply asking Alexa, Siri, or Google about it; moreover, the same answer can probably be given for a certain amount of searches for local businesses, phone calls, or basic informational queries. Unmistakably, voice search has quietly become one of the biggest trends in technology, but in order to understand its impact, let’s have a look at the term, its history, and how it’s changing the way we access information.
A compound term, voice search, which is slightly more than a decade old, can be broken down into its 2 much older components, voice and search. Initially entering English from the Latin vocem (vox) via the Old French voiz, all of which mean the speech/sound/words made by the human mouth, the first usage of voice can be found circa 1300 in a story about St. Francis which is noted in Carl Horstmann’s 1887 The Early South-English Legendary, stating: “Though spake a voice therein [sc. from the cross or in the church] well gentle and soft, And said, ‘Francis, go thee forth’.” The noun search, meaning ‘the act of searching’ and coming from the Old French cerchier (‘to search’) which was derived from the Late Latin circare (‘go about or wander’), entered English about a century after voice: from circa 1400, the Destruction of Troy. The Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy: An Alliterative Romance Translated from Guido de Colonna’s Hystoria Troiana mentions: “The woman..showed forth her message..In saying herself and search of his will.”
Technologically speaking, the predecessor to voice search – voice recognition – dates all the way back to innovations like Bell Labs’ Speech Recognition System, Aubrey, in 1952 and IBM’s Shoebox in 1962; however, proper voice search begins right where you thought it would – Google. Launched in 2007, a Google telephone service, GOOG-411, first allowed users to talk into their phones to run local searches. Building on this phoneme database created by GOOG-411, Google released the first Voice Search app for Apple’s iPhone, becoming one of the first speech-to-text platforms for commercial devices. The advent of Siri on iPhones in 2011 as well as the release of the Amazon echo in 2014 only served to hasten the usage and application of our voices to searches and online activity.
For a concept so new and revolutionary, it hasn’t taken long for people to start applying it to their daily lives. Currently, approximately half of all online searches are voice searches, with surveys showing that more than half of all age groups speak to voice-enabled devices daily. Not only do nearly 60% of people surveyed say they use voice searches to inquire about local businesses, but nearly the same number (again, of all age groups) expect to use voice searching more in the future. Whether it be on your smart speaker, your smartphone, or on a wearable device, technology is getting simpler, easier to use, and more accessible: all we have to do is talk to it.
And for business, all it has to do is focus on how its online presence is represented in voice search results and partner with an experienced LSP for all multilingual voice SEO needs.