Friendly, helpful, and available on demand.
Digital Voice Assistants brighten the day. The new breed of digital personal assistants promises convenience, efficiency and a personalized portal to the world.
“Intelligent” software like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana use the latest technology in machine learning and voice recognition to handle a huge assortment of tasks. However, as these devices get smarter, the question of who is controlling who becomes more ambiguous.
From their earliest incarnations as pocket-held schedulers, today’s digital personal assistants are capable of seamlessly syncing all of a user’s devices, providing a single hub in which all your information is stored and in which your devices are controlled. These assistants have the ability to turn off your lights, adjust your temperature and even order food or a cab if you so desire. Your home security system will be able to sync with these hubs, providing an easier method to arm your home and lock your doors (details here). The Amazon Echo, Alexa’s black obelisk, can even order you a Domino’s pizza. Have some favorite toppings? Alexa will remember and have that information stored so that you do not have to go through the motions of customizing your order again (more info).
All of this is possible thanks to the advances in artificial intelligence. Many developers have been working on making AI speak and act more like humans, except without the human body. These newly developed personal assistants are able to take into account the semantic structure, context, and intent of a query to offer you the best options and even predict future choices. It seems that in the near future, actual personal assistants will not be needed anymore since the job will most likely fall into digital hands.
Smart devices no longer exist in isolation, either. The age of the Internet of Things made it possible for devices to be constantly connected, streaming data and carrying out tasks based on the data they share. Today’s AIs gather information about their users from all possible sources, such as email, shopping and viewing preferences, search histories and even other devices. From this storehouse of data, smart assistants “learn” a user’s preferences, buying patterns and interests in order to fine tune the help they offer. Paired with a device’s friendly voice, this ability to learn and change creates the illusion of a trusted and helpful friend.
Advances in voice search technology are also driving the development of smart digital assistants. According to head scientist and chief of Baidu Research at Baidu Andrew Ng, over half of all searches will be voice or image-driven by 2020. A key reason for the shift is the availability of AIs that sound human, and are capable of understanding natural, conversational speech, in most cases. Alexa, Siri and their peers still struggle with regional accents and misinterpretations and take orders from anyone who speaks, not just their owner but it won’t be long until this intelligence is fine-tuned to truly be your own virtual assistant.
Siri, Alexa and the other digital personal assistants on the market are constantly being adjusted to make your life easier and more efficient. They work constantly to gather your information to give you a better and more personalized experience. However, as AI starts to gain access to your personal information, it’s no surprise that there are some growing concerns in relation to hacking and privacy violations. Putting your trust in a machine is risky and it can never guarantee your safety fully. But the future seems adamant about making robots and artificial intelligence the norm and digital personal assistants are one of the first steps in making this a reality.