Virtual personal assistants : A contemporary upheaval in Artificial Intelligence

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines. In computer science, the field of AI research defines itself as the study of intelligent agents. Intelligent agent is any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal. Virtual personal Assistants are intelligent agents. Virtual personal assistant were created due to advancement in Natural Language processing .They were developed to perform tasks by taking commands from user verbally.

Virtual personal assistant is a software agent that can perform tasks or services for an individual. Virtual assistants use natural language processing (NLP) to match user text or voice input to executable commands. Many continually learn using artificial intelligence techniques including machine learning. To activate a virtual assistant using the voice, a wake word is used. This is a word or groups of words such as “Alexa” or “OK Google”

Virtual Assistants are  extensively used to provide services like playing music from music streaming services , reading audio books , playing radio stations, providing news and weather reports from internet , setting an alarm, making to-do list and shopping lists, playing videos, TV shows or movies on televisions, streaming from e.g. Amazon prime, hotstar. They can also provide information about any topic from websites like Wikipedia, imdb etc. Users can also buy items from shopping sites like flipkart.

There are four popular VPAs available in market that are owned by Tech giants. Lets discuss about the VPAs which are offered by these tech giants.

Siri (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface)

Siri is a Virtual personal assistant, part of Apple Inc.’s iOS, watchOS, macOS, and tvOS operating systems. The assistant uses voice queries and a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Internet services. The software adapts to users’ individual language usages, searches, and preferences, with continuing use. Returned results are individualized. Siri can be used by user to carry number of tasks such as making a call, checking basic information like weather of the city ,scheduling events and reminders , searching topic on internet , navigating routes ,streaming music and playing videos.

 

Cortana

Cortana is a Virtual personal assistant created by Microsoft for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft Band, Xbox One, iOS, Android and Windows Mixed Reality. Cortana can set reminders, recognize natural voice without the requirement for keyboard input, and answer questions using information from the Bing search engine. Cortana includes a music recognition service. Cortana can simulate rolling dice and flipping a coin. ‘Cortana’s “Concert Watch” monitors Bing searches to determine which bands or musicians the user is interested in. It integrates with the Microsoft watch band for Windows Phone devices if connected via Bluetooth, it can make reminders and phone notifications. Cortana integrates with services such as Foursquare to provide restaurant and local attraction recommendations and LIFX to control smart light bulbs.

Google Now

Google Now is a virtual personal assistant developed by Google . It is available in the Google app for Android and iOS. Google Now uses a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of web services. Along with answering user-initiated queries, Google Now proactively delivers information to users that it predicts (based on their search habits) they may want. Google Now is currently activated by saying “Okay Google”. Now “cards” are also available for Chrome OS in the notification center. Voice search and limited voice-commands are available in the Google app for Microsoft Windows, and through Google Search when using the Google Chrome web-browser.

Alexa

Alexa is a virtual personal assistant developed by Amazon, made popular by Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot devices developed by Amazon Lab. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audio books, and providing weather, traffic, and other real time information, such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. Most devices with Alexa allow users to activate the device using a wake-word such as Echo; other devices such as the Amazon app on iOS or Android require the user to push a button to activate Alexa’s listening mode. Currently, interaction and communication with Alexa is available in English and German. Alexa offers weather reports provided by AccuWeather and news provided by TuneIn from a variety of sources including local radio stations, NPR, and ESPN. Alexa-supported devices stream music from the owner’s Amazon Music accounts and have built-in support for Pandora and Spotify accounts.

The most vital feature of VPA is that they can collaborate with other apps to perform user’s  desired task. This is done by integrating the API’s with the VPAs. These tasks can include simple tasks like setting an alarm on your Clock app as well as composite task like buying a product from shopping app.

At VTSPL we had a client who wanted us to give an additional option of placing order by using a VPA. We took all the details like type, quantity of the product verbally .We successfully completed the whole order cycle by verbal inputs from user. The new feature was appreciated greatly by users. Perpetual hunger to provide innovative solutions to clients makes VTSPL as top mobile app development company in Pune. VPAs are going to revolutionize the user-app interaction. To provide a favorable experience to users  integrate more functionalities of your app with VPAs.

 

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