The voice-controlled assistance market reached a new high this week with the launch of Viv, an artificial intelligence (AI) system that is piped to be “the intelligent interface for everything.” Built by the same people who originally designed Siri, prior to it being acquired by Apple, Viv (which means ‘life’ apparently) is aptly being described as Son of Siri or Siri 2.0. The first public demo took place onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY on Monday, following four years of development. Dag Kittlaus, one of Siri’s founding fathers, gave the presentation and described how Viv would come to “breathe life into the inanimate objects of our life through conversation.” What’s exciting us about Viv is its AI capabilities, and the fact that it’s being pitched as far more than a virtual assistant, with some industry insiders claiming it could feasibly emerge as a challenger to Google. According to reports there have already been acquisition offers from Google and others, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is an indirect investor. Viv has been built using an open, third-party ecosystem, which creates myriad opportunities for the interface to be “trained-up” by developers. This also puts it in an interesting place, alongside Google. The issue, as with the original vision for Siri, is deciding who fulfils the request. “No one company has the resources to plug in every one of the different services you might want to use with your assistant,” claims Kittlaus. Towards the end of last year Google released a study of 1,400 Americans looking at their use of voice search. It found that 55% of teens and 41% of adults surveyed used voice search, and more than once a day. Around the same time, technology firm MindMeld commissioned research of 1,800 adult smartphone users in the US, and found that there had been a big upsurge in voice assistant and voice search usage, with 60% saying that they had started using such tools in the past 12 months (including 41% within the past six months). Within the study, Siri emerged as the primary voice assistant (40%), with Google trailing a little behind at 26%. To date, voice assistant Hound has arguably been the most interesting contender within the voice assistant space, but Viv’s AI sophistication, and its ability to understand intent particularly, places it in a league of its own. Within the TechCrunch demonstration, Kittlaus called on Viv to pay a friend $20, and what followed was a tap of the pay button through an integration with Venmo, and instantly, the friend had been paid. It brings to life the impact a single intelligent interface, able to carry out multiple complex tasks on our behalf, could have upon our daily lives. The possibilities are far reaching. Kittlaus speaks of four core areas which he feels will be the differentiator for the voice assistant market… One assistant He claims “it’s a race to a single interface for the user”. Why have multiple interfaces, when you only need one? The concept of a single intelligent portal into everything digital, which is a big step beyond Google, is a winner we believe. App overload Consider the disruption this could have upon the app space in the future. It could make the current need for multiple apps on a smartphone or tablet completely redundant. Why open up an app, if you can speak a request directly to Viv? Personalised The winning voice assistant will need to be able to learn about you and your preferences. It must program itself to make decisions on your behalf, or instinctively know what you would choose in any given situation. Additionally, it will need to have an exceptional grasp of your natural language. Currently, when I speak my daughter’s name into Google, for example, it interprets it as something very different. Cross-device This single interface must work instantaneously, on any of our devices. You don’t want to have to begin re-teaching your assistant, every time you pick up a new device. So if you’re not already bringing you and your business up to speed on the impact voice search is having upon the industry, make sure you do…as it’s evolving quickly!
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Digital moves fast.
Step aside Google, and make way for Viv…
Monday, May 16, 2016