Personal Digital Assistants , are they really assisting and how ?

“Order me a pizza with a double meat topping and extra cheese”. You are not talking to your friend or the customer support agent but to the Personal Digital Assistant on your phone.

Advancements in AI, Data Intelligence and Natural Language Processing have accelerated the era of personal digital assistants but the question remains “Are they intelligent enough”?

They are all over the tech news, almost every mobile device has its own or about to have one, websites have them as mandatory pop ups, enterprises deploying them for operation automation and IoT enthusiasts are using the technology to make talking cars, refrigerators and other household devices. Soon my dinner plate might be counting the calorie content of tonight’s dinner and blushing red with warnings.

With the world about to break into violent conversations, let me ask you this.

How many of you have used a voice or a chat assistant to solve a real world situation?

If that makes you feel like a dinosaur in this digital world, here are some quick stats for you. A survey done by MindMeld in December 2015 shows that the percentage of users using voice assistance has only risen in the last six months.

Adoption of intelligent voice assistants, 2015 Dec

Full report here : http://searchengineland.com/mindmeld-launches-voice-assistant-2-0-says-voice-search-growing-dramatically-238130

That is a very late adoption considering most of them have been in the market for close to three years now. Even people who use them do not seem to use them enough or on a critical path.

Use cases of current voice assistants

My own experience with voice assistants has been more of a voice hack to the otherwise search panel. If I was looking for search results I could have just, you know, searched it myself.

Visa questions for my Thailand trip from India
Finance questions for help with the current market

Though it is cute in calling me the ambulance, it dials 911 instead of the Indian Ambulance Helpline number 102

Calling 911 from India

Sharing some more of those personal experience with other chat bots from booking flight tickets to asking for medicine or just chatting, well the name is chat-bot for a reason.

The time when it guessed an additional kid as a co-passenger
Alice tries to help me with the headache, who is Judge btw ?
What confused it ? the word “talk” ?

India has also joined the race in chat bots and has few in the space with a lot of investment money but the magic still remains to be seen.

A survey conducted by Bloomberg in April 2016 revealed the actual humans sitting behind those machines as stop-gaps till they get the Artificial Intelligence bit figured.

Read the full article here :http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-18/the-humans-hiding-behind-the-chatbots

Also, the present day problem with bots and assistants are that they are getting it mostly wrong than right and in areas of very less manual effort. For true artificial or augmented intelligent applications, we need bots helping with a common man’s regular needs and not calendar scheduling for the executives.

Well, to give them due credit for the work done so far, it is not easy to learn and speak like a human. There are no fixed patterns to human conversations, which makes things difficult. But apart from natural language processing skills there are other areas a bot company needs to pay attention to

1) Focus on a single domain and master it. Generic information is not engaging beyond a certain point.

2) Support multiple accents and colloquialisms to have a wider audience with different mother tongue influence.

3) Don’t just blind dump links but process it to find the information within the link.

4) Apply localisation and personalisation to make it contextual and relevant to the user and his demography.

5) Integrate with others bots in the space in providing a wholesome user experience.

What more do you think the new-age pocket-fitting robots can help you with?

What is your pain point that they can solve or what will make you use them more often?

Do share, will be very interesting to hear your feedback.