Voice-First Applications: A Few Software Testing Considerations to Take Into Account

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Tech giants such as Amazon and Google have sold Alexa and Echo to such an extent that they have become household names. And soon they are expected to be used by commoners in their homes, ordering takeout, picking out a song, answering trivia questions and so forth.

For those who have no idea about what is a voice-first device, it is a smart device that is specifically designed to get tasks done conversationally. They're always-on and always-listening. The current era can be definitely considered as the era of voice-applications. In fact, it may quite interest you to know that Google Home devices and 24.5 million voice-first devices are expected to ship before the end of 2017, i.e. anytime soon. 

Now as a businessperson, you must be thinking how can I leverage this new channel to provide better service to my end customers. At the same time, developers and designers must be thinking about how they can design and deliver the best voice experience. Here the bad news is that we are all well aware regarding the fact that hackers are already capable of breaking into such type of devices. So for that, several security specialists need to think about securing data and network access in the event of a hack attack.

Other than this, there is a specific set of challenges in executing software testing especially for voice-based apps like Alexa skill or Google where professionals can find bugs right before the customers do. Software testers are even able to automate the testing process due to which updates can be released at a faster pace. So what can be done is? Try adapting processes to the new technology.

Now an effective test strategy starts with a good understanding regarding the underlying architecture of the system under test. For that, a software tester needs to understand the command details right from the moment the user starts asking. For example, the voice first device is asked to do something until and unless the task is completed. In this case, the user gives a command by saying the wake-word "Alexa" and follows it with command details. The device sends the voice stream to Alexa and it does a couple things, using speech-to-text technology to translate the voice stream to text and identifies the skill name and maps the user's spoken inputs to the skill's intents and slots.

Now it’s very important for you to keep in mind that there are numerous types of testing available- unit, system, integration, performance, endurance- they all carry over to voice, but there are challenges, such as standardized testing is text-based. Speaking of Automated Voice Testing (AVT) approach, it makes use of a speech recognition engine that automatically controls the device conversationally as a human user would. This approach is device-agnostic and platform-agnostic because the automation of the tests is at the voice level. The automated tests can be executed against any kind of voice app, running on any device.

Remember, voice-first devices have gone quite mainstream and are providing a new way for businesses and brands to better engage with their customers by delivering a fast, easy, and familiar voice experience.


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