Virtual Assistants

How can virtual assistants impact the way we communicate and operate?

It goes without saying that we rely on technology for a lot of things and soon we’ll have our own virtual assistants. While the idea of responsive computer programs and virtual assistants have long been around in science fiction (think HAL9000 in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, Ironman’s Jarvis and even Samantha in ‘Her’), and more recently in the non-fictional world (Siri, Google Now and Cortana); our behaviours are now shifting beyond simple command-based experiences to technology acting on our behalf.

Viv Labs is a noteworthy example of a company who is delving into the gap between us and ‘apps’. A couple of weeks ago the team behind Apple’s Siri launched ‘Viv’, an AI assistant capable of understanding more complex behaviours and commands than her predecessor, and they’re also partnering with companies, such as Uber so you won’t have to personally order a taxi, or pizza again. Ask Siri and you’d get a list of options which you would have to action after-the-fact, but with Viv all you have to do is ask and everything will be done for you.

Chat bots are another innovation generating a lot of buzz in the tech world. Facebook recently unveiled their prototype AI program, which is designed to learn your texting style, favourite phrases and frequently used emojis to imitate your personality and then respond to people on your behalf in the digital world. This means you (digital you) can make plans and respond to calls while you are off doing something else or even while you’re sleeping. Google’s Allo allows you to ‘chat’ with its search engine, just as you would with another human being.

So What?
As virtual assistants become capable of learning our habits and preferences we give more permission for technology to act on our behalf. This is great from a convenience point of view (who doesn’t want more sleep?), but what is interesting about this is the applications it could have for businesses.
Virtual assistants could create opportunities for us to work more efficiently across time zones, maintain client and customer relationships without delay and enable business to replace impersonal automated interactions with more responsive and empathetic customer services.