Digital assistants are now a part of everyday life for many users, whether it’s barking out commands at Siri on an iPhone, summoning Google Now (or later Duplex) on an Android device, asking Cortana to look something up in Windows 10, shouting at Samsung’s Bixby on a Galaxy device, or asking Amazon’s Alexa to perform one of its many skills. So what’s next in the AI assistant space? Mozilla is building a new voice-controlled web browser called Scout.
We all know Mozilla as the developer of Firefox, one of the popular browsers that people turn to when they don’t want to use Internet Explorer or Edge in Windows, or Safari on Windows (Firefox is also available on mobile platforms). In staying with the times, however, Mozilla sees a future in navigating the web by voice rather than punching or tapping keys on a keyboard, or moving a mouse or using swipes and gestures.
“With the Scout app, we start to explore browsing and consuming content with voice. This talk will discuss the architecture and key components needed for a voice platform, the required capabilities of those components and the challenges of working with the limitations and confines of existing platforms,” Mozilla stated in an internal All Hands conference centered on the creation of a voice browser.
The way it would work is a user might say, “Hey Scout, read me the article about polar bears,” to borrow an example by Mozilla. Beyond that, we don’t have any other details to go on, just speculation. Still, it’s an interesting concept that might eventually change the way we think about interacting with the web. Whether that time is now or even in the near future remains to be seen, but with digital assistants become so commonplace, it’s not difficult to imagine a voice-controller web browser.
One of the challenges that Mozilla will face is privacy. Obviously a voice-controlled browser would need to record audio, creating a new privacy vector that does not exist within Firefox and the way it operates. As we have seen with Alexa and other devices, there can be issues related to privacy when recording audio in the background.
That’s a concern for another day. As of right now, there’s no word on when Scout might materialize.