Virtual assistants divice, point the way to the future

We all need a little help sometimes. After all, what are cloud-based, artificially intelligent software agents for?

By now we’re all familiar with the usual suspects: Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa. They introduced most of us to the idea of talking to, rather than via, a phone, computer or home appliance.

But let’s face it: These virtual assistants have become boring, banal commodities. Sorry, Siri: Your jokes are stale and your evolution slow.

More than anything else, Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa have left us wanting agents that can understand and interact with us better, independently take action in the real world for us — and even change our lives.

Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) is fundamentally transforming how we interact with technology. Beginning with Siri in 2011 and evolving over the past half-decade—first in smartphone operating systems (OSes) and now natively available in a range of different form factors—digital or virtual assistants have become a more ingrained element in our everyday user experience (UX). As we get used to virtual assistants doing more things for us and existing wherever we are, the next question is: Where do they go from here?

Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Assistant have become our voice-activated helpers when searching for information, organizing our schedules, and completing all manner of everyday tasks in more intuitive ways.

Cortana and Google Assistant are getting smarter, with contextual reminders and recommendations geared toward optimizing productivity along with fascinating innovations incorporating computer vision and other machine learning (ML) algorithms. Alexa is building out a diverse ecosystem of third-party skills, and Google and Microsoft have followed suit.

Alexa Skills Kit, Cortana Skills, and Actions on Google give companies and developers the tools to apply the voice tech to everything from email marketing and e-commerce to expense tracking and fleet management. These business applications and use cases are only what we’ve seen so far. PCMag spoke to execs from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft to understand their virtual assistant vision, how the tech is evolving, and what these companies believe businesses can do with voice-capable AI helpers.

Virtual assistants divice, point the way to the future
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