Virtual assistants are accompanying us on more and more of our daily errands. They speed up adding events to the calendar and searching the Internet, answer questions about the weather and book hair appointments by phone. But the technologies behind Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant are just the tip of the iceberg. Take a look at what the future of virtual assistant technology holds.

Virtual assistant technology – table of contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. What can virtual assistants do?
  3. Business applications of virtual assistants
  4. Virtual assistant technology – summary

Introduction

Speech-to-text and text-to-speech technologies enable conversations with virtual assistants. But beneath the surface of a natural-sounding conversation with a virtual assistant, there are challenges.

Virtual assistant or how to talk to AI

What can virtual assistants do?

When a virtual assistant hears our question, it must quickly deal with two problems: situational understanding of the utterance and responding to it in the way expected by the user.

The first problem concerns the context of the utterance and the intent of the questioner, i.e., the appropriate way to relate the words to the situation in which they were uttered. “Close the window!” to a virtual assistant will mean something different when we are working in a word processor and something different when we are sitting in a cool room of a smart home. The words “Remind me to water the flowers when I get home” mean something different depending on who is saying them. And the question “Will I need an umbrella today?” requires an association of umbrella functionality with rainy weather.

However, the purpose of a virtual assistant is not only to understand commands and questions but more importantly to take action. Responding, whether in the form of voice or command execution, requires a process no less complex than understanding the question asked. We can assume that this process starts with generating meaning and ends with choosing the right words or actions. Thus, the artificial intelligence hidden “under the mask” of the virtual assistant makes a decision based on the available information and reacts in the chosen way:

  • answers the question,
  • ask a supplementary question, or
  • performs the expected actions

Thanks to the versatile capabilities of virtual assistants, they can perform a number of small, time-consuming tasks that most of us still do on our own today without even thinking about whether it’s still necessary.

Business applications of virtual assistants

The business application of virtual assistants offers immense possibilities. For they can accompany customers in all their daily activities – from dictating the text of a message to adjusting the air conditioning, to making intelligent shopping suggestions.

Application areas for AI-based virtual assistants include making phone calls. Usually, only voice commands such as “Call Anna” are common practice. However, virtual assistants can also carry out conversations. A YouTube video of Google Assistant making a hair appointment for its owner over the phone by talking to a human has been popular for several years. And today, it is easy to imagine a situation where two artificial bits of intelligence are talking to each other on the matter.

Virtual assistants can also provide answers to general questions using the resources of the Internet, finding information after hearing the sentence “Who wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude?”. The same mechanism can apply to explain how products and services work. However, it is necessary to equip a specialized assistant with the appropriate knowledge.

However, employing programmed assistants is not limited to answering questions and carrying out conversations. They can also operate a smart home, such as executing the command “Dim the lights in the kitchen,” as well as adjusting the parameters of other Internet of Things (IoT) devices and even sensor-equipped industrial machines.

A frequently featured function of virtual assistants is also the operation of car navigation. Thanks to the development of AI, it is possible not only to indicate the address where we want to go but also by choosing a place corresponding to the directions, for example, “Lead us to a romantic restaurant we have not been to yet”.

Another application is the selection of products and services based on the description – from music that matches the mood described, to finding the dress of your dreams in a store. And it is this last application that seems to have the greatest business potential. Popularized today by Amazon, among others, which by collecting and processing customer data can send a package with unsolicited goods corresponding to the user’s expectations.

Virtual assistant or how to talk to AI

Virtual assistant technology – summary

The operation of Alexa and Google Assistant, Siri and Cortana open up many new possibilities. Virtual assistants are shaping the way we interact with reality. They help us find our way back to the parked car, but they also influence our purchasing decisions. They may therefore become increasingly important in business, and their integration with emerging applications and smart devices is simply becoming a necessity.

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Virtual assistant technology, or how to talk to AI? | AI in business #11 robert whitney avatar 1background

Author: Robert Whitney

JavaScript expert and instructor who coaches IT departments. His main goal is to up-level team productivity by teaching others how to effectively cooperate while coding.

AI in business:

  1. Artificial intelligence in business - Introduction
  2. Threats and opportunities of AI in business (part 1)
  3. Threats and opportunities of AI in business (part 2)
  4. AI applications in business - overview
  5. What is NLP, or natural language processing in business
  6. Automatic document processing
  7. AI and social media – what do they say about us?
  8. Automatic translator. Intelligent localization of digital products
  9. AI-assisted text chatbots
  10. The operation and business applications of voicebots
  11. Virtual assistant technology, or how to talk to AI?
  12. Business NLP today and tomorrow
  13. How can artificial intelligence help with BPM?
  14. Will artificial intelligence replace business analysts?
  15. The role of AI in business decision-making
  16. What is Business Intelligence?
  17. Scheduling social media posts. How can AI help?
  18. Automated social media posts