Voice UIs look, conceptually, like much more unrestricted and general purpose interfaces than a smartphone, but they’re actually narrower and more single-purpose. They look like less friction than pulling out your phone, unlocking it, loading an app and so on, and they are – but only if you’ve shifted your mental model. They look like the future beyond smartphones, but in their (necessarily) closed, locked-down nature they also look a lot like feature phones or carrier decks. And they’re a platform, but one that might get worse the bigger the developer ecosystem. This is captured pretty well by the ‘uncanny valley’ concept from computer animation: as a rendering of a person goes from ‘cartoon’ to ‘real person’ there’s a point where increased realism makes it look less rather then more real – making the tech better produces a worse user experience at first.

Ben Evans