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The Role of Voice in Lab Digitalization

Thinking about Lab Digitalization (and other related initiatives)? Read here to learn more about how voice can fit into those plans.


The rise of voice assistants over the past decade has been well documented, and they have become so widely accepted that many consumers not only ask for, but expect, some sort of voice features in their product. This growth has not simply been adding Alexa and Siri into the product. Mercedes paid big bucks to debut a voice-enabled sedan during the 2019 Super Bowl, and has since followed up with more commercials highlighting the feature.


Like all consumer-focused technology, it has taken some time for voice to make its way into the lab, but it’s starting to take root as part of a broader wave of technology focused on digitalization of the lab experience. For the scientists, engineers, and research support who are now catching this wave, here’s a few benefits of how voice can further lab digitalization.


Enabling Real-Time Data Capture


Through virtual assistants, scientists no longer need to carry temporary records along with them. There’s no need to have a scrap of paper, sticky note, glove, masking tape, or instrument surface handy to capture notes via pen or marker (we won’t mention relying on memory); voice allows users to capture their observations, measurements, and notes immediately and hands free. Even if your team is still using Excel as a LIMS, inventory tool, or asset tracker, voice can save valuable time and limit the amount of errors by filling out spreadsheets rather than inputting those values.


An Extension of Your Software


Scientific software is built to collect data in the lab, yet has very much become an office tool. There is no better example of this than the Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN), which is specifically meant to provide context over what happens in experiments, yet often times is filled with said context hours after the experiments happen. ELN has become an end-of-day activity. With properly built integrations, voice assistants can become a natural extension of many types of lab software, including the ELN. Users can recall information, such as sample locations or protocol instructions, without taking off their gloves, let alone leaving the lab. Or, playing on the above theme, can have their notes and information sent directly to the ELN, making sure that the context and observations are coming fresh from the scientist.


Hands-Free Instrument Control


Using virtual assistants to control voice may at first seem like a luxury, but in reality, it offers many benefits. Any researcher that is able to work hands free, even for a split second, is more focused on their experiment, their safety, and compliance. Further, for scientists working with physical impairments, the ability to use voice offers a realm of possibilities that otherwise would remain unachievable.


The Foundational Layer of AR/VR


Similar to voice, the technological advances made with augmented and virtual reality tools have grown by leaps and bounds, as has the excitement surrounding them. Facebook has announced plans to launch a line of smart glasses with Luxottica in 2021. Smart glass functionality will offer scientists the ability to find inventory, receive instructions, and more, but not without the presence of voice. To move on from one step to the next; to select the right experiment in the ELN; to provide context to the issue of a faulty instrument are things AR and VR tools will be able to help out with, but will rely on voice to offer a full picture.


Voice is one of many powerful tools in the journey to lab digitalization. For additional resources, check out some of the following resources:


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