From a Toy Doll to Alexa: The evolution of voice recognition

Alexa, tell me the history of voice recognition technology.

From Toy Dolls to Alexa, talking to inanimate objects and waiting for a response is not a new concept, and the technology powering this has evolved throughout generations. 

Voice recognition technology has been at the top of Christmas wish lists from its launch in the 80s to the present day. Research shows that 32% of Americans use voice-activated search daily instead of typing. And, according to Google 20% of queries on Google’s mobile app and Android devices are voice searches, and the number is expected to grow exponentially.

Let’s look at where the demand for voice recognition devices stems from with a brief recap of its history. 

The 80s saw the world’s most intelligent doll

In 1987, the invention of the World of Wonder’s Julie Doll brought voice recognition from a concept to reality. Nicknamed the ‘World’s Most Intelligent Doll’ the toy would recognize when spoken to and respond accordingly. The Julie Doll was incredibly popular – paving the way for gifting voice recognition technology. 

Microsoft and Apple led the way in the early 2000s

Fast forward to the early 2000s, and Microsoft began to lead by example with its integration of speech recognition and Office products. Apple followed with the first built-in speech recognition and voice-enabled control software for Apple computers.

Taking inspiration from Microsoft and Apple, Google followed with the launch of Google Voice Search – its speech recognition application. Google also utilized this technology to collect data from billions of searches which would help the application predict what the user would say. 

The rise of the virtual PA

After taking inspiration from Google, Apple launched Siri in 2011 – revolutionizing relationships with our electronic devices. Mobiles and tablets went from being communication and entertainment devices to personal assistants. 

Devices such as the Amazon Echo provide next-level voice interaction enabling music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streamlining podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information. 

In 2017, Amazon’s Alexa app was the top application for Android and iPhone on 25th December. Every Christmas, tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices are sold worldwide. There is such high demand during the holiday season that Amazon Echo devices completely sold out in 2019.

The gift of convenience

With consumer behavior changing, the global voice recognition market is valued at $9.56 billion in 2021 with a projected growth to $49.79 billion by 2029. As voice recognition technology evolves, the convenience it continues to add to our daily routines ensures it will be a gift of choice for generations to come.