When we think of a “smart” device, we are actually referring to its Intelligent Personal Assistant. What started as a possibility of AI has actively become the selling feature of technology these days. Be it “Jarvis” from the movies or Siri on our iPhones, it is the trend that will define and dominate the technology to come. From understanding the content to the context, deriving information from every day lives to deep learning for a more humanistic approach, these digital assistants have come a long way and have still to grow.
An Intelligent Personal Assistant can be described as an AI enabled software agent with the ability to process instructions, access information actively from the web, perform tasks on user’s behalf like: reading content from messages, writing messages/emails, place phone calls, play media, set reminders, alarms, calendar events etc. These are mostly voice activated and are put by tech companies into various products nowadays.
According to Derek Top, the director of research at Opus Research, “The tech companies have realized that there is great value to be derived in collecting and aggregating customer input and they no longer care whether it is spoken initially or in the form of text.” Let’s have a look at the most popular Intelligent Personal Assistants we’ve had till date:
- ALEXA – Amazon Echo : Integrated into Amazon’s hands free, voice controlled speaker called Echo, Alexa is a cloud based voice service that can automate different network-connected equipment. Programmed to activate from the wake word “Alexa,” it recognizes and responds to the user’s request, lights up and streams audio to the cloud. It also has the ability to adapt to speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.
- OK GOOGLE – Google Now : The app is available for both Android and iOS and also comes with a built-in extension for Google Chrome. It is mainly focused at getting results based on voice based search and provides Now cards to provide information before it is even asked. It is also compatible with Android apps like: Spotify, Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Uber etc. Google now comes with helpful cards with information on weather, news, sports updates, traffic which can also be customized as per one’s interests.
- CORTANA – Windows Phone 8.1 : Cortana was created with universal APIs (application programming interfaces),which means as the Cortana DPA service evolves, it will be more capable of performing in-app requests. It is there to make things easier for the user and keep them up to date on the things that matter to them. It can help the user out with alarms, notes, music, maps and directions, places to go, weather, facts, sports etc. Cortana will begin listening no matter what you’re doing on your phone, even while the phone is locked. If you want to keep things quiet, you can type your requests and Cortana will refrain from answering with her voice.
- BETTY – UBUNTU/LINUX : Betty, similar to Siri and Google Now, helps users get things done easily and quickly. Betty doesn’t take voice commands. Rather it is a virtual assistant with a command-line-controlled natural language interface that uses sequential inference and contextual awareness to help perform personal tasks. It can be installed easily by the users on their system. Betty was originally designed for Linux and Unix desktops as a means to translate spoken English into computer terminal code. Betty can be used to change configurations, find files, download files from Internet, Internet search, file & directory operations like compress/decompress and others, control audio applications, count words in a file etc.
- SIRI – Apple iOS : It is probably the most popular hands free intelligent assistant today. Siri can help with sending messages, placing calls, making dinner reservations, navigation etc. It also works with HomeKit to let voice be the remote control for connected products back home. It also works with several other online services like Wikipedia, Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes etc. to get more accurate answers. It has also expanded to other devices such as the latest Apple TV box, Apple Watch and inside the vehicle you drive, via CarPlay. Siri is perhaps the most developed intelligent assistant in terms of interaction, personality, natural language processing and overall user experience.
The market for such intelligent assistants is surely heating up, with big brands and researches focused on developing the most user friendly and result oriented intelligent software. Other honorable mentions include – Ivona, Blackberry Assistant, Braina, Hound, Nina, SILVIA, Aido, Ubi, Mycroft etc. With so many innovations going on in this field, it sure sounds like prelude to the future where instructing a machine would be as easy as talking to an actual person. As the world is moving towards the cloud and with the evolution of smartphones and devices, these intelligent personal assistants will surely be a great help in managing things and getting instant information.