“I’m sorry, I don’t understand”. I asked again, “Alexa, can you let the vet know we are going to be late”? “I’m sorry, I don’t understand…”. The routine is all too familiar.
Whether Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Home, current generation voice-activated AI-powered personal assistants don’t come close to being a product that is truly indispensable. Even though these companies enjoy huge market shares and enormous revenues, with billions of devices sold in the past couple years, the bottleneck is that the technology is still not there yet.
But does that mean these assistants are not smart? No, these devices are anything but just dumb machinery. Look at this from another perspective. The Siris and Alexas of the world had always been researched and developed under the pretense of being able to fulfill lighter and simpler use cases rather than being your personal assistant. Can Siri recommend a nice Chinese takeout for dinner? No doubt. Can Google Home tell you if you should pack warm clothes for your trip? 100%. Can Alexa play music for you that you will love? For sure.
But what about walking your dog? “Hey Siri, walk my dog”, you might ask your intelligent assistant. “I found 23 results for Dog Walkers in [location]…” comes the reply.
In people’s already busy schedules of meetings, birthdays, and dinners, a list of dog-walkers adds more items on your to-do list. Rather than make life easier, it makes life harder. This is the major and most dominant barrier impeding the adoption of modern devices as actual assistants.
A personal assistant is someone who you can give work without having to worry about its completion. The person whose duty and responsibility is to take laborious tasks away from you. Do our smart non-human counterparts fit that description well? Far from it. To reiterate, it’s not to say voice assistants are useless toys. These AI-assistant projects are multi-billion dollar commitments by tech giants which receive excessive amounts of investment. Amazon’s last quarter reports show that Alexa accounts for almost 10 percent of their total revenue.
But what if these devices could walk your dog? What if they could actually become your indispensable assistant? The possibilities would be endless and would take us a step into the future, pumping even larger streams of money into the voice recognition industry as a whole. Such a world, where our lives are supported by these smart personal assistants is closer than we may realize, but for now, what is it stopping these products from meeting the bar? From becoming indispensable?
Diving deeper one immediate red flag is raised – search, rather search only. Most of these devices, if not all of them, are efficient at answering questions from their owners, or at least finding answers to these questions. Essentially, these services are more of a search engine than a ‘do engine’. A Do Engine, something that can take the actual mundane tasks off of your plate like picking up the dry cleaning or getting your car washed.
So, voice assistants can develop beyond the realms of purely ‘search’ tasks and into ‘doing’ tasks. No doubt, as the benefit of ‘do searches’ is realized, devices like Alexa and Google Home will be quick to adopt the technology and make digital personal assistants a reality. The power to make things happen at your fingertips (or rather, your voice) is what will make voice-assistants indispensable. Only once AI-assistants can physically complete tasks will they demonstrate core value in society. As the need for this kind of support becomes more pressing, we’re sure to see actual robotic assistants emerge soon.
Saideep Gupta is a technology enthusiast, ambitious entrepreneur. and a passionate leader. As Wing’s CTO, it is my responsibility to lead the company forward with cutting edge technology and innovative solutions to add more value for our customers. We are at the forefront of AI revolution, always thriving ourselves to be better than ever before
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