Artificial intelligence promises huge, life-changing advances that will define the next generation and all to come thereafter (at least, if the rosiest predictions are to be believed). From medicine to gaming and everything in between, AI is already making tangible inroads into how we live our everyday lives. But, nothing could be quite so impactful to consumers’ daily lives as a real-deal virtual assistant that truly links every facet of our digital, on-demand lives in one easy-to-use, comprehensive fulfillment platform. Siri, Alexa, Cortana and others have tried, but their limitations are well documented. But, the original creators of Siri (before selling it to Apple) are back, and this time, their newest creation is trying to do for us what Siri was designed to do. Viv, as they’re calling it, could be the true silver bullet for widespread consumer AI adoption. Will it get there, though?
Most professionals, hell most consumers write large, get by without a virtual assistant, per se. So why should we care so much about whether or not a computer technology firm develops this specific functionality in our lives?
Because computers aren’t really designed for humans.
If you think about it, computers aren’t intuitive in and of themselves. We have to learn what they are, how they work, the protocols dictating their parameters or limitations, etc. I would contend computers are easier to use now than they’ve ever been, but we still have to learn a series of rules to adeptly navigate a computer. And people get much better at it than others if they progress farther along the path to rules mastery.
For instance, when asked how I got good at researching individual topics, my answer is literally, “I’m better at Googling than most people.” That’s a more valuable skill than sooooo many people realize. Because at its heart, the internet is a series of protocols and rules, and if you know what they are and how they interconnect, you can navigate the world wide web better than others.
Computers are exactly the same way. You don’t know how or why you’d need to save a document until being taught that. You wouldn’t know how to use a mouse without seeing it in action first. Hell, you probably wouldn’t know how to turn the machine on without mimicking someone else you’ve witnessed doing it. But because computers are so central to everything we do in our lives now, we all learn these things at increasingly young ages. So much so, we forget how unintuitive a lot of these behaviors can be in a vacuum.
That’s the promise of a real virtual assistant; one that Viv is hoping to solve.
Siri was an amazing first step in natural language processing and systems integration. But, other than the occasional sass, it’s not always the most useful of tools in the real world. You’re just as likely to trigger a random internet search as perform an app-specific query when talking to it (her?).
So is Viv the answer? According to write up in Futurism, she just could be:
Viv’s creators, Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer—who also created Siri, before selling it to Apple—hope that their newest creation will become the portal through which users interface with the internet. No more cumbersome typing of search terms, having to toggle between multiple apps to order services, or even having to download apps in the first place. Viv will bypass it all.
We learn to speak inherently — there’s a yearning within humans to socialize within our species (even if language isn’t the most intuitive thing, either). If we could truly just speak to a virtual assistant and it understand the true nature of our request and fulfill it without having to open any additional apps, look up ancillary information or provide rote information over and over again, that would truly be a silver bullet for AI and mass-consumer adoption.
We’re already used to speaking to Siri, Alex and others. What happens when they actually live up to their loftiest potential?