Voice Shopping Might Be Getting Closer to Reality

Tony Stark wouldn't be Iron Man without his snarky but helpful AI — in fact, he probably wouldn't even be Tony Stark. Comics lovers and movie fans have long taken JARVIS as fantastical, but in the real world, we're leapfrogging closer.

On Black Friday this year, Amazon's Echo Dot, the home voice assistant, was its bestselling product across the board. Maybe we can't banter yet, but smart speakers and phone assistance are in place to help us in other ways. Consider telling your Alexa to reorder things like toilet paper or shower filters, and it's done. You may even walk into a new store, ask Siri which aisle has your favorite brand of chips, and get a personalized result without hunting down a sales associate.

As with all things AI and programming, it looks a lot simpler than it really is. Voice-to-text recognition and machine learning aren't on a level with people when it comes to parsing and interpreting everything. We're still working on the difference between what people say and what they mean, not to mention the privacy considerations. But technologists want to push beyond that, ready or not.

In addition to its great Black Friday sales, Amazon has also announced a new business product in its line of Alexa smart speakers. The Alexa for Business Platform plans to help your office fully integrate voice commands instead of keystrokes. (Full details are expected Friday.) So, who knows — JARVIS may not be so far away after all.