Ok Google, Hey Alexa, what are folks using you for these days?

In a 1963 episode of the futuristic TV sitcom “The Jetsons,” one of the characters succumbs to a condition called “buttonitis” from activating too many remote-controlled devices around the home.  The TV series correctly predicted the degree of control consumers would someday have in their homes, but the difference is that commands these days are usually voice activated.  Voice controlled intelligent personal assistants are a common sight in U.S. homes.  When we asked U.S. adults last year if their home had a device like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, 24% indicated they owned one and 21% indicated they planned to get one in the next 24 months.

Voice controlled assistants are clearly getting a lot of use, with 79% of consumers using them to listen to music and 70% checking the weather.  The categories of use for these devices include entertainment/ information, personal organization, communication, control and commerce.  The most common uses are entertainment/ information – in addition to music and weather, consumers use the devices for checking the news (51%), searching for information online (47%), and checking traffic (28%).  Personal organization is the next most common category of use, including setting reminders (49%), making task lists (28%), and scheduling calendar appointments (22%). The devices are also used by many consumers for communication, including voice calls (24%) and sending messages (19%).

In an increasingly interconnected world, voice-controlled assistants have the potential to be vital portals for controlling technology.  A segment of consumers relies on their devices to control an array of technology, including a TV (21%), home lighting (21%), HVAC (11%) and appliances (8%).  When an enabling technology becomes available, the last domain of use is typically commerce because of insecurity with processing financial information in an unfamiliar medium.  However, 15% of consumers used the voice-controlled devices in their homes to purchase products and services, while other less common uses include ordering food, making restaurant reservations, ride hailing and financial management.  We expect that in the future, voice controlled assistants will become ubiquitous in American homes and increasingly relied upon for commerce and maintaining control.

Written by: Charles Colby, Chief Methodologist, Principal and Founder