Earlier this year, both Unibet and Betfred launched their new speech enabled sports betting App. Both apps enablegamblers to place speech controlled bets on football matches, horse racing, and a variety of other sports, for example, with customers stating the bet they want and then Teneo’s Artificial Solutions’ Natural Language Interaction (NLI) technology arranges the bet using Unibet’s regular mobile app. Once the bet has been established, players then vocally confirm the details of the bet to authorise the wager.
With voice recognition already replacing touch as the smart devices’ primary input, conversational commerce is providing the next step in chat, with messaging and voice becoming ever more important interfaces.
But what does this mean for gambling apps?
As voice recognition software has improved, so companies are developing capabilities in this area much quicker. The natural interaction of voice gives gamblers an easier interface, removing any hurdles that might have existed with traditional web and app interactions. To my mind the most obvious advantage here is mobility. As smartphone usage is now second nature to all of us and with technology “on the go”, so is our lifestyle and voice just makes it that much easier.
This speech app interface also adds flexibility for people with disabilities who are unable to use the phone in the traditional touch method. Betting wise, consumers now have faster, more convenient access to the latest odds and this will only increase their engagement, especially for live betting, where customers have complained of finding it difficult to follow live games while using the casino’s interface to place bets. This will ultimately benefit the gambling business with consumers placing further bets and engaging more during out of hour’s activity.
Voice enabling software has moved on in the last few years with rapid advances in recognition and information retrieval technology. The new wave of virtual personal assistants and conversational interfaces have developed in both intelligence and pervasiveness. This new wave of voice-driven assistant technologies rides on the back of advances in artificial intelligence, rich collections of user data and growth in keyboardless and screenless devices. Additionally, great speech recognition is now built into every major operating system and app. The new wave of voice-driven assistants finally embodies the dreams scientists and consumers have held for so long, legitimately understanding the meaning — and delivering on the intent — of naturally spoken queries.
So what are the key points gambling businesses need to think about when creating voice enabled apps?
Determine goals and requirements for the system
Like all good user interface design, speech application design begins with a clear understanding of the app’s goals, requirements, and use cases. It’s important to remember that user experience design is all about how the user interacts, so it’s vitally important to fully understand what users want and need. Making the customer experience as frictionless as possible has long been the focus of betting companies. Customers quite rightly don’t want complicated, clunky or multi-step experiences that get in the way of making a bet.
Choose between natural language and directed dialogue
A natural language application, like Apple’s Siri, allows users to speak naturally while a directed dialogue prompts them to use specific phrases, similar to your bank’s automated phone system. While natural language applications can create a more human-like user interface, directed dialogue applications are considerably easier to design and, in most cases, serve the users’ needs much better.
Choose the application persona
An important consideration for selecting a persona for your voice and this will very much depend on how and where the application is going to be used. The system may need to use less formal language if its users are placing a bet than if they were reserving afternoon tea at The Ritz, due simply to the cultural differences of the users. Since the language for prompting the user will affect how that person responds, it is a good idea to keep these cultural distinctions in mind.
Incorporate error handling
At this point in the process, it is important to address error handling in order to maximise user satisfaction. For example, some users might not be understood correctly because of accents, background noises, or unexpected phrases. What will the application do in these cases? Will it keep track of the number of errors and transfer to an operator if the counter reaches a certain threshold? You need to think about error handling and how this will be rectified in advance. Otherwise customers looking to place a bet may go elsewhere.
Whether as a gambling business you are building a complex application or a very basic one with a more modest interface, the steps are the same for developing quality speech recognition. The objective is not just achieving a superior level of recognition accuracy, but also ensuring that the UI can handle errors and language variability and, ultimately, to produce a high completion rate with minimal user frustration. I don’t think we’ll be seeing slot and table games controlled by our voice for a while yet. But with Unibet and Betfred’s interest in pushing how we interact with our mobile casinos, it looks likely that we’ll be seeing innovative things from them in the coming years, especially as voice betting is simply one example of trying to create frictionless customer experiences.
Paul Swaddle is the CEO of Pocket App.