Books written by Ray Sullivan

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Truly Personal Digital Assistant

I don't know how successful Siri is with US accents, but it isn't too successful with mine or my wife's.  Our accent is slightly northern, there's a twang of the Liverpudlian floating around in there, but neither accent is particularly strong or difficult to fathom.  I do know Americans who have struggled with my speech, but that has been more to do with colloquialisms than my accent.

In fact, when at a loose end, we enjoy asking Siri to send text messages to each other just to see how garbled the message can get.  So I guess the future of asking the computer for an opinion is still a while away.

But there are attempts to leverage the voice analytical capabilities of tablet computers even further.  Expect Labs, a San Francisco company, is launching a new service that will initially run on the iPad, with further roll outs for Android in the pipeline.  The concept they are pitching is the ever attentive personal aide who politely listens to your conversations and anticipates the data you may need to support the thread.

They are doing this by providing a communication app that will connect tablets together, a bit like Skype but with the ability to analyse what your are saying to each other and using that information to pro-actively pull up relevant data to support your conversation.

So I say to you on the app - hey, how about a trip to London, take in a show? and the iPad app starts to collate ways of getting to London from north Wales, perhaps starting to work out road routes, rail timetables, even short haul flights from Liverpool or Manchester.

You say fine, we'll get the train and the road and air options are dropped while the app starts to look at theatre shows, hotel rooms and restaurants we could use.

Or perhaps you might be discussing an actor in a film and one of you asks what else he's been in - while you're scratching your collective heads the app slinks off and peeks into iMDB, bring up the info you need before you've finished asking the first question.

Will it work?  No idea, but judging by Siri's performance with my northern accent I don't expect to find it that usable from the get-go, given its San Francisco origins, but I can see that the concept has legs.  More importantly, in a business context where a number of ideas are being thrashed around, a proactive always listening master of the internet search could be a real boon.


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