AI; Working with Virtual Assistants

During the past year, the capabilities and usage of virtual assistants has grown exponentially. New products and advanced technology are being introduced into the market at a record pace. An online poll conducted in May 2017 found the most widely used assistants in the U.S. were Apple’s Siri (34%), Google Assistant (19%), Amazon Alexa (6%), and Microsoft Cortana (4%).

How do virtual assistants work?

Virtual assistants use natural language processing (NLP) to match the user’s text or voice input to executable commands. The most popular assistants are programmed to continually learn using artificial intelligence techniques such as machine learning, which basically is a method of teaching computers to make and improve predictions or behaviors based on data.

Some devices are activated by the touch of a button, such as Siri, while others are programmed to activate using a wake word voice prompt. This is a word or groups of words such as “Alexa” or “OK Google”.

What do most people use their virtual assistants to do?

The most common requests of these assistants are: to provide information such as weather, facts from websites such as Wikipedia or IMDB, set an alarm, or make to-do lists and shopping lists. They are also used to play music and videos, read audiobooks, and make online purchases.

What does the future hold for virtual assistants?

As more people become reliant on the assistance offered by technology, the presence of virtual assistants will continue to grow. Expect more products to hit the market that provide voice activated assistance such as Alexa along with the increasing presence of mobile applications that provide virtual assistance through smart devices, and software that provides assistance through your pc.

Facebook’s M has recently become available to hundreds of millions of users on Facebook Messenger. In its initial rollout phase, suggestions from M center around just a few limited features such as: stickers, payments, location, making plans, polls and getting a ride. The original idea behind M is that users could ask it to do pretty much anything — book flights, make changes to subscription cable service, and even find a plumber.

M uses chat bots so that users don’t have to leave the Facebook App and open another app to perform a task. For instance, if you want to book a ride with Uber you can ask the chat bot to simply message Uber and ask for a ride opposed to leaving M and having to open the Uber App. Chat bots are computer programs that mimic conversation with people using artificial intelligence. These bots are basically replacing individual apps. M has been engineered to interpret a user’s preferences or style of conversation and to make suggestions based upon their typical user habits. Chat bots simplify tasks by performing several functions for the user while staying within one app.