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Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Image and voice recognition technologies are becoming so sophisticated that experts predict both technologies could replace typing, at least in part, when it comes to communication and search. Michael Levine of Photon, one of the largest internet technology consulting companies, says these changes are happening quickly:

Something like texting, that people thought was simple and easy, is eventually going to cause friction.

Why it matters: Few people type the way they speak or the way they use images to communicate, which means that web publishers will have to manage their SEO strategies to accommodate picture and voice-related search queries. As these technologies advance, consumers will also have to learn how to interact with them more fluidly or "learn how to speak to robots." From a business perspective, voice and pictures can be easier to analyze for personalization than text, creating smarter sales and customer service experiences.

  • Voice: The use of voice-activated digital assistant devices will grow almost 130% this year, according to eMarketer. Google predicts that use of these technologies will cause more than half of queries to be voice search by 2020. For news publishers specifically, Voicelabs found that 25% of Amazon Alexa users use voice to learn about news.
  • Images: Image-based platforms, like Snapchat filters and Google Lens, use machine learning or real-time, user-generated images that can replace typing locations, temperatures, store hours or other details. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence are also making it possible for apps and websites to infer information about images and show relevant details without users having to type to search for more info.

Driving the change: Amazon controls 70% of the voice-enabled speaker device market, while Snapchat Lenses and Facebook Stories are expected to drive the majority of market adaptation on the image side, per eMarketer. Today, only about 12% of the U.S .population engages with some form of AR content, but new companies like Vuforia are being developed to integrate AR into more consumer apps.

What's next? Nearly 70% of voice requests are natural/conversational language, per Mary Meeker's latest tech trends report. New technologies, like Twilio's natural language understanding software are learning how to analyze intent during any voice call, which will make it easier for humans and voice-powered robots to have more authentic conversations. On the image side, a new app called Project Chalk debuted last week that will let users draw on top of live video chats through augmented reality, which could partially replace chat bot interfaces for interactions like customer service.

Go deeper

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse under scrutiny for elite club affiliations

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in February. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Image

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement Wednesday that he is a member of an exclusive Rhode Island sailing club that lacks diversity.

Why it matters: Whitehouse has repeatedly spoken out against systemic racism and come under scrutiny this week for his family's affiliation with elite clubs. This is the second such club accused of lacking diversity that the senator has been linked to in recent days

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Border Democrats want migrants vaccinated

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Tex.) Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some Democrats representing border districts want President Biden to vaccinate migrants crossing into the U.S. — especially if he lifts public health restrictions that have prevented them from claiming asylum on American soil.

Why it matters: Inoculating migrants treads a fine line of protecting the U.S. population while possibly incentivizing more migration with the offer of free COVID-19 vaccines. Republicans are likely to pounce on that.

3 hours ago - World

State Dept. fears Chinese threats to labor auditors

A space for media is designated by Chinese authorities near a mosque in the Xinjiang region of China. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department is concerned organizations performing supply-chain audits in China are coming under pressure from Chinese authorities.

Why it matters: U.S. law prohibits importing products made through forced labor, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to verify whether products from China are tainted.

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