Voice-powered virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa have shown how convenient and useful it can be to receive information just by speaking to our devices and listening to the answers.
It should be little surprise then, that the innovative gambling industry has started to try out using such voice-enabled technology to enhance the betting experience of customers.
Both Unibet and Bet Fred launched sports betting apps in recent years, allowing users to place bets on football matches and horse races,using just their voice. Taking advantage of natural language interaction (NLI) technology, the apps allow players to select a currently offered bet, confirm the details, and then authorise the wager.
Reception for these apps from users has been generally positive. Customers who want to bet on their mobile devices particularly enjoy the hands-free nature of having a virtual assistant take care of the wagers for them, without the danger of any ‘fat-finger’ typing errors.
Both Unibet and BetFredarelikely to take advantage of their experience with voice-enabled betting on their sportsbook and try to apply it to the more profitable casino games.
One of the key lessons that they seem to have taken from the experiment seems to be that the natural language that Siri encourages users to speak, is less useful than directed dialogue applications which offer a menu of choices.
The classic example of a directed dialogue might be the experience of phoning a bank to query a transaction and saying yes or no to each question in a logic path.
Gamblers wanting to place a big bet are rather less accepting of ambiguity than a smartphone user who just wants to find the nearest Thai restaurant, and the limited options of a directed dialogue app offers fewer errors than a Siri-type experience.
The directed dialogue route also has the advantage of being significantly cheaper and faster to develop, and we expect to see more and more sportsbooks using it to take advantage of the boom in mobile betting in the future.
Whether this tech can be applied to certain casino games is open to debate. The myriad options that are available in each hand of poker may not be suited a directed dialogue approach, so it will be interesting to see how far voice commands can be of use in casino card games or online slots.
The UK has always been the big testing ground for new technical innovations in online gambling. This is partly due to the large, English-speaking market, and partly due to the more relaxed regulatory framework for gambling that exists there. For these reasons, we should expect the first voice-enabled casinos to enter the UK market first, so we will keep an eye on the CasinoUK.com site for further developments in this area.
Whatever developments happen with voice, the UK gambling industry does seem poised to embrace a number of new innovations, from Virtual Reality to Bitcoin to eSports to Fantasy Sports.
But these will be the subject of another article.