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article imageDo you use Siri in public? 97% of Americans are too embarrassed

By James Walker     Jun 6, 2016 in Technology
A survey of American iPhone users has found that over 98 percent of all owners have tried out Siri, Apple's preinstalled digital assistant. Of that figure, just 3 percent have done so in public though, with the overwhelming majority too embarrassed.
The study, conducted by Creative Strategies, looked at 500 "mainstream consumers" in the U.S. and their usage of smartphone-based digital assistants. Apple's Siri, Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana were included.
The survey concluded that people are still unaccepting of voice-based technologies, particularly when in public places. Despite 98 percent of iPhone owners having tried out Siri, just 3 percent said they had used it in public. Across all the platforms, 20 percent of people who said they had never used a voice assistant said this was because they don't feel comfortable talking to technology.
People are most likely to use a digital assistant while in the car. Of the respondents, 51 percent talked to their phone while driving, compared with 39 percent in the home, six percent in public and just 1.3 percent while at work.
Creative Strategies speculated the higher usage in the car could be a product of hands-free laws rather than a conscious choice by consumers to send texts out loud. This suggests people are unwilling to adopt voice control as a primary input method, instead relying on it when there is no alternative.
It asserted it is safe to assume the usage isn't necessarily driven by technologies such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Because the survey focused on mainstream consumers, it is unlikely the respondents made use of systems like CarPlay, even if they were made available. In-car entertainment systems can include many more voice commands than a phone can send over Bluetooth.
Across every platform, overall usage of digital assistants remained low: 70 percent of iPhone owners and 62 percent of Google Now users said they employ the respective service "rarely." Creative Strategies was unable to compile data for Cortana and Windows Phone due to a lack of "statistically significant" users of Microsoft's platform.
"20% of consumers who said they never used a voice assistant stated they had not done so because they feel uncomfortable talking to their technology, especially in public," the firm said. "With public usage as low as 3% for iPhone users, it seems users are still uncomfortable talking to their devices. Even more fascinating is this happens in the US where consumers are accustomed to talking loudly on phones in public."
The results may not fully explain consumers' reasons for refusing to use digital assistants in public though. The survey credits embarrassment as being the primary reason but there are likely to be other factors at play here that also affect consumers.
Notably, the accuracy of voice recognition quickly drops off in crowded, noisy environments. When this happens, it can be easier to open an app or send a text yourself, instead of repeating a command multiple times. This could lead to further embarrassment, resulting in people saving time and their composure by looking up the news or checking their calendar themselves.
Creative Strategies noted "there is certainly more that can be done" to get consumers to embrace new technologies, including improving voice recognition. "This coupled with AI's ability to turn current voice assistants into true digital agents able to have natural exchanges will remove the barrier of 'talking to technology,'" it concluded.
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