Technology may seem like unlikely subject matter for a story. Traditionally, a story consists of actions, events and characters – but everything, in fact, has a story; even technology.
Since the beginning of time, humans have sought after tools that could help stretch their natural abilities. It’s a part of human instinct to look at things and evaluate how they can help us do more – move quicker, see better, be stronger. Horses were early examples of this. Domesticated horses became extensions of their owners, making manual labor easier, soldiers ride faster and long commutes more feasible. The relationship between a horse and its owner is truly a beautiful thing. Horses have an intuitive sense of what their owners want from them – sometimes even before a cue is given. An unknown author once said, “Horses lend us the wings we lack.”
Technology has had a similar story. Although technology is not a living, breathing thing, it has nonetheless been a constant companion of the human race since the Stone Age. Early technologies like fire, stone tools and weapons were aimed at sustaining life, while further on in history technology became more sophisticated in nature and wide in scope. From the Iron Age on through to current times, technologies have moved past being mere survival tools, allowing us to perform tasks on our own in an ever-changing landscape – something known today as self-service.
From early tools to the birth of the internet, websites and smart-gadgets, technology’s journey has been fast and furious because, as our needs evolve, so too must the technology around us. A shift between convenience and expansion to a focus of user experience and contextual computing is taking place. Today’s users want self-service options that act as more like the help we’d get from another person – a full-service experience. Convenience without sacrifice; imagine that.
This infographic highlights what we’ve known for a while now: that giving people the ability to self-serve via technology that needs to be ‘learned’ will not be good enough for the endeavors of future generations. Humans will strive for more intimacy when it comes to technology and how it serves us, eventually leading to a relationship similar to that of the horse and its owner: a fluent give and take, with virtually no learning curve.
Virtual assistant technology will need to continue to advance in order to reach that aspiration, but what the technology has done is open the door to the possibility of delivering digital service in a more intuitive manner than ever before. They are, undeniably, the next benchmark in the timeline of technology. They are adding intelligence – and a single, simple interface – to what has become a crowded, clunky ecosystem for users. For that reason and many others, virtual personal assistants, or “smart machines,” landed on Gartner’s prestigious list of ‘Top 10 Technology Trends for 2014’.