What Is An Artificial Intelligence (AI) Personal Assistant?
Once upon a time to find a restaurant a person had to flip through a thick, bulky (and sometimes dusty) book. Yes, those were the yellow pages, which incidentally could also be used as a good doorstop.
Discover all the pizza places less than a kilometre (mile) away in a split second, without moving a finger, thanks to an AI personal assistant.
So what is an AI assistant?
In the most simplistic terms, its artificial intelligence (AI) that understands natural language (a human voice), jumps into action when given voice commands, and does what it is told to do.
Let’s examine how digital assistants are being used at home and at work.
Lights off! Your house is getting smarter with AI
When Raj on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ got a new iPhone and met Siri, it was love at first sight - with a virtual personal assistant.
Of course, Apple’s Siri has evolved a great deal since 2012. The voice sounds a lot less robotic, and if asked, “Are you single?”... the response is now, “I am married to the idea of helping people.”
Some common uses for Siri include making phone calls or FaceTime calls, sending messages, getting directions, setting an alarm for the morning, and playing music.
Another time-saver is to hit the microphone on the keyboard in the notes app on an iPhone or iPad. Say your grocery or ‘to do’ list and it magically appears on the screen.
Also transforming our private domain is the Amazon Echo. Using voice recognition technology this smart speaker will perform tasks 24/7. Ask “What’s the time?”...a dozen times in an hour and it’s calm , composed voice doesn’t waver.
The 3rd generation on Amazon Prime boasts of “new premium speakers powered by Dolby”, the ability to “personalize your listening experience by adjusting the equalizer settings”, and the option to “press the microphone off button to electronically disconnect the microphones.” So unlike some other tech devices on the market, this device can be adapted for your life, not you adapting to a new, unpopular update. (New Coke anyone?)
Echo has many uses, including setting timers, getting news/weather/sports briefs, playing games, and taking the ‘Question of the day’. Alexa also now asks if you want a daily reminder by email to play ‘Question of the day.’
Aside from that, the option to turn a place of abode into a smart home is quickly becoming more popular and affordable. No need to turn off the lights or TV yourself when Alexa is around, a personal AI assistant.
What is even more interesting is how machine learning is transforming Echo. How will everyday life change as Alexa does more than just give the temperature on cue or sing a song about ”...when my wifi left me? A conversation in real-time with AI may be something people want, or don’t want.
But…... Siri and Alexa are not the only star players on the field.
Google Assistant also scores high marks, including in the categories of ‘map directions’ and ‘voice recognition’.
The Google intelligent personal assistant does all the daily chores like its counterparts. The list of what it can do is long and growing. It includes the latest traffic report on your commute to work, calculations, cooking measurements, and how to get red wine stains off the carpet.
Google will also play your favourite song, crack a joke when asked, and give the score of the baseball game.
And similar to the other voice assistants on the market, Google Assistant is available on a number of branded devices such as Google android phones, Google Home, and Google Pixelbook.
The Google Nest Hub uses speech recognition like the mini device, but comes with a picture display. That’s great for someone who wants to hear — and see — how to cook a turkey. The Nest also provides display screen control over all connected devices ,including lights, temperature, and a doorbell video camera.
Emails, emails, and more emails
Sometimes you have a great day at work, and sometimes it feels as though you are constantly running, but never seem to cross the finish line.
Email, and then emails accessible on smartphones, revolutionized the work experience; no more interrupting phone calls and no more vibrating pagers.
But over the years, the inbox keeps filling up faster and it’s taking a good chunk of the work day to sort through it all.
AI email assistant apps to the rescue! Yes, some people really do need a rescue operation.
Artificial intelligence takes on the heavy load organizing the emails, allowing for customization of automated actions. For example, flagging the most important emails and moving the other stuff to a different folder. Just don’t forget to check the junk or spam folder at least once a day in case a big sales lead ends up in the wrong place.
Zoom zoom zoom….. but never leaving the office
These days as many people continue to ‘Work from Home’, the workday is longer, and it’s getting harder and harder to stay focussed with all the distractions.
One solution is to put an AI personal assistant to work. Set alarms, for example, to ensure a Zoom call or virtual meeting is never missed. Children can also benefit from this for online learning.
Even managers can get help from digital assistants to schedule meetings.
As mentioned previously, using AI apps with dictation will save time with work notes.
Don’t forget that Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana are like virtual research assistants, quickly tracking down information and answering questions on a wide range of subjects. They can also improve your vocabulary by providing synonyms for commonly used words. It’s not necessarily about sounding smarter than everyone else, but perhaps just not saying the word ‘cool’ all the time.
The future is AI
We know artificial intelligence is drastically improving the customer service experience for all types of businesses through chatbots. People may not even realize that AI is what allows them to book an oil change on their phone… at 4 am.
Expect to see more of this, and with unexpected applications.
As AI personal assistant devices become a part of all homes, like the refrigerator, more emphasis will be placed on security. If the device knows everything about you, so could a hacker.
And if you would like to have a real chat with your AI virtual assistant, get ready for what Amazon is working on.