Man and machine

Gary Neale

With the increasing popularity of personal assistants in our homes such as Amazon’s ‘Echo’ or Google’s ‘Home’, we are getting ever more reliant on talking to the machine. Voice recognition technology is growing fast but in terms of being widely used is only in its infancy.

Voice technology combined with ‘machine vision’ is giving our artificial friends the ability to move as well as talk, making them more lifelike than ever. How far off are we from a ‘Skynet’ systems real life take over I hear you ask? Well they are here to stay, that’s the price of progress and it’s time to start loving the machine.

A recent report by JWT and Mindshare Futures called ‘Speak Easy’, suggests how voice recognition will have a huge impact on consumers and companies. It is estimated that by 2021, there will be more digital assistants on earth than humans.

With this development in mind, plain old disruptive style promotion and advertising just won’t cut it in a world where we are developing beyond interaction with a screen. Our designers spend most of their time trying to find creative ways to capture a client’s personality, to visually set the right tone. Yet with one sweep of a robot’s arm, we have another dimension to contend with and the opportunity for brands to be more relatable and –  well –  ‘human’.

What voice should my brand have and what personality ensures my company is seen in the right light?

I can see it now, standard brief interrogation questions will change from: ‘What is the main brand guideline colour?’ to: ‘What voice should my brand have and what personality ensures my company is seen in the right light?

As a communications agency this should be music to our ears.  We can actually ask the product we have just bought questions as we take it out of the packaging? We are no longer working with things we can see anymore – that’s a scary thought for the traditionalist.

Of course VR technology is being used for more than making our functional life easier. Robotics, speech recognition and computer vision have the potential to change the way we react with the environment around us for good.

Using biometrics in everyday life begs the question – are we safe and secure? Can voices be replicated to access our account details? As with any progressive technology you always create unexpected risks lurking where you least expect them. Being eavesdropped all day by a computer in California seems to me a grave threat to our private life and a serious invasion of our liberty.

But it’s not all bad. The manager of Mozilla’s learning group says ‘home hubs’ can be used to provide safety and health monitoring for the elderly, disabled or those recovering from illness. WinterLabs in Toronto have developed a VR system that is able to deconstruct a person’s voice and determine within a minute if he or she is living with Alzheimer’s disease.

We are already helping clients get to grips with this new technology – email us at to speak to one of our team. To find out more about MHP Design and the work that we do, please see our Bēhance page.