Five years ago, the ability for machines to 'talk' to us would have sounded like something from the far future. But today voice technology is scarily clever. Talk to Siri on your iPhone or Alexa on your Amazon Echo and they can organise your life!
The question is, how far will this go, and how will it impact on qualitative research? Text mining and sentiment analysis is already used for written text. Couple these with machine learning, a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) whereby computers learn without being programmed, and we could find the analysis part of our jobs becoming completely automated for us.
More scarily, Adobe recently unveiled VoCo, essentially Photoshop for voice. This, once it has enough calibration (about 20 minutes of spoken input), can replicate your voice to say things you never said. The idea is to help with voiceovers/films, etc., to add and/or change dialogue when necessary.
Take this to the nth degree: a moderator who provides 20 minutes of their voice could enable a machine to learn to think for itself, becoming a fully-aware moderator in its own right, which is then able to churn out instant analysis. Well, thats the theory. Luckily though, I predict were at least a good five years or so away from this reality, so fellow qual researchers, youd best make hay while the sun still shines!
Research Director, Discovery
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, February 2017
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2017