Het is natuurlijk leuk om met Siri “bel taxicentrale” te kunnen zeggen tegen je iPhone, maar dat is straks alweer hopeloos achterhaald. Zeg om drie uur ’s nachts vanuit de kroeg “ik ben dronken”, en je smartphone bestelt een taxi voor je.
Today, virtual assistants like Siri and Google Now can answer simple requests, and even anticipate our needs based on our location.
While that seems useful, the brains behind Siri are creating an artificial intelligence system that can process even more complicated requests, which could make it feel more human than any other virtual assistant, as Wired’s Steven Levy reports.
Startup Viv Labs, which was founded by Siri’s creators Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer, and Chris Brigham, is currently working on its AI system called Viv.
Viv differs from Siri and Google Now in that it can analyze different nouns in your sentence independently to compile an accurate and useful answer. This means you can ask Viv more long winded and complicated requests while speaking naturally as you would to another person.
“Pick up some lasagna”
For example, Siri or Google Now wouldn’t be able to help you with a request like “On my way to my brother’s house, I need to pick up some cheap wine that goes well with lasagna,” which Wired cites as an example. Those services would be able to pick out a liquor store for you that’s en route to your brother’s house, but probably wouldn’t be able to pair a specific wine that goes well with lasagna.
Viv, however, breaks down the sentence into three key parts: Lasagna, brother, and home. It recognizes that lasagna is a food item, that your brother is a person and that home is an address. It then pulls together a bunch of resources such as Google contacts, Wine.com, Mapquest, and Recipe Puppy to answer all parts of the request. For example, it uses the information from Recipe Puppy to learn about the ingredients in lasagna, and then parses through compatible wines using a platform like Wine.com.
Viv also gets smarter as more people use it. Ultimately, the team seeks to create a digital assistant that knows what you want without having to issue a specific command. For instance, if you say “I’m drunk” to your phone, Viv would automatically call your favorite car service to take you home.
While Viv Labs’ technology sounds impressive, it’s facing stiff competition from the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Apple. All three companies have invested significant resources in furthering their virtual assistants in recent years. Microsoft, for example, is pushing Cortana is one of its key features in Windows 8.1.
Apple is also believed to be beefing up its artificial intelligence team to bring some improvements to Siri. Google is relying on its Google Now virtual assistant to carry its new wearables platform Android Wear, which is meant to provide useful, contextual information at a glance before you even ask for it.