What to Expect in the Next Generation of Virtual Assistants

By TMCnet Special Guest
Lars H�rd, founder and CTO of Expertmaker
  |  November 12, 2012

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

Today, whether we’re aware of it or not, we are using elements of Artificial Intelligence while on our mobile devices. Beta versions of artificial intelligence tools such as Siri and Google (News - Alert) Now offer us recommendations, automatic notifications and schedule meetings we tell them to. But, what does the next version of AI look like for our daily lives? And what lies beyond these command-based and simpler notification services?

In short, it’s expert advice and solutions from your very own virtual assistants.

The big thing for AI is a mission to make the Internet more intelligent. But this doesn’t require only one single AI-integrated app, but millions of distributed, specialized, smart knowledge-driven solutions capable of working together.

While much of today’s AI is about creating solutions for companies with large resources, the future of AI is probably highly distributed and without centralized control – building value for all who use it. In many ways, this means that the next generation of AI apps will really be about enabling a better life for people based on a a new generation of machine learning software and other AI technologies.

One of the great things about AI is its ability to handle more complexity. Add to this new functionality developments in natural language processing and image recognition. Such features will merge with other forms of AI services to create an interface that is simple enough to use for services only people could do before. Therefore, the next generation of virtual assistants will provide personalized and intelligent services based on complex systems and sets of data but in simple user-friendly interfaces for us to interact with. 

Here are two virtual assistants you’ll see emerge over the coming years.

Your personal shopper

M-commerce is the fastest growing part of commerce today. It’s therefore no surprise that this industry has progressed the fastest thus far when it comes to using AI-integrated components to help shoppers in a number of ways. The next step will be a series of brand-driven personal shopping apps that can cater to exactly what you like and what fits your body measurements, style and taste.  

For example, by learning from what types of clothing and accessories you purchase, your assistant will know the basis of what you like. It can also learn intimate details from uploaded pictures of yourself which it can merge with the current lifestyle trends throughout your life and will be able to provide you with well-tailored and highly specific insights on your style –suggesting new fashion trends and ways to wear your new skirt, new hair trends and more. 

Pushing this example further into deeper personalization, through new developments in image recognition, your personal shopper app will be able to provide you with the perfect make-up techniques and colors to accent your skin type and tone by accessing pictures that you have uploaded .

The possibilities are endless and certainly don’t stop with apparel and style. We can apply this to shopping for larger more expensive and permanent purchases such as cars, pets and houses. These personal apps will have the ability to look at pictures of a realtor web site and identify information from the pictures that otherwise would not have been noticed.

Your personal secretary

In our always-on lifestyles, timing is everything. New hardware integrated with our virtual assistants will connect the dots more often for us when scheduling our daily tasks, managing our monthly calendar dates, and providing insights into annual or one-time reminders for things such as bill payments.

Our virtual assistants will have access not only to our calendars, but also the context and atmosphere around us in real time. Google Glasses, due to enter the market by year’s end, will show first stage capabilities like checking the weather forecast and suggest a selection of nearby stores that sell umbrellas if it is about to rain later in the day.

Mobile devices are growing capabilities of measuring ambient data: temperature, location, user movements, etc., in addition to analyzing digital content. All of these factors will be embedded into the calculations and schedule our personal secretaries provide for us – sharing suggested revisions or cancellations due to impending weather, syncing a dinner date with another after-dinner-drinks-date with mutual friends at nearby locations and beyond.

Virtual assistants will affect both our online and offline life. Today’s simpler apps are showing glimpses of what is to come, but the really interesting bits have yet to come.

Lars Hård is founder and CTO of Expertmaker (www.expertmaker.com).

Edited by Brooke Neuman