A virtual assistant is essentially a software agent that can perform tasks or services for an individual. The first assistant to exist was an IBM Shoebox - a digital speech recognition tool, able to recognise 16 spoken words and digits 0-9. Assistants have come a long way since then, with the most prominent release of recent years being Apple’s Siri, released in 2011, and Amazon’s Alexa in 2014. In early 2019, 18% of UK households now have a smart speaker (with Alexa powering most of them).
Virtual assistants have got to where they are through AI and speech advances and their future is bright. As the world becomes more connected, enterprise and consumer solutions will begin to merge as users will have the option to manage the events of their entire day via an AI assistant.
As the number of devices increases, we’ll find different contexts for their use. A user could start their morning at home and ask their voice assistant what meetings they have that day. That assistant may then be picked up via a different device to automatically transcribe a meeting, before being utilised to automatically turn on the heating as the children of the user begin to walk home from school.
Although voice is the most well-known application of virtual assistance, the real beauty of their evolution will be found in the devices, services and connections that will be built around them. Sherpa.ai, a conversational interface, is bringing that connection and really pushing assistance. Sherpa will integrate your interests, news, places and restaurants to give you informed recommendations and predictions of what you need, and can be applied to many different contexts, having recently been integrated into Porsche vehicles.