The Promise of a Personal Assistant is growing

I’ve long lamented the fact that for all the computing power we have at our avail, and in spite of it growing exponentially, it still seems that it is all quite “dumb” in terms of not knowing much about me, my situation, my habits, etc.  I wrote about this back in the 90’s that it was like having an assistant with no memory and no learning ability.  You had to teach them, each time, how to do everything you wanted them to do,  But it seemed inevitable that in the future we would see this change as computers and applications got smarter.  We’ve seen some progress in the years since but it has been mostly on that initial low and flat feeling part of exponential change and I think we are just about to hit the inflection or tipping point in this area. 

One indicator is the recent announcement below from Siri of their voice based assistant app.  It shows much promise and will help you see the distinction between mere voice recognition and voice based assistance. The assistance part comes when the app is able to not just recognize what you said but to interpret it and take actions as a result.  For example it hear you say “I’d like a table for two at Il Fornaio tomorrow night at 7.” and it will do everything from finding the closest Il Fornaio restaurant, display driving directions on a map and book the reservation for two.  There is still much work to be done to make this more ubiquitous and find ways of hooking into many other services, but it is a significant step towards true smart assistance that we all need and I’m optimistic that the exponential curve of the Snowflake Effect of mass customization and personalization continues to shoot every upward.

Siri Launches Voice-Powered iPhone ‘Assistant’

A new app invites you to command your iPhone in the same way that Captain Kirk addressed the Enterprise’s computer.

Siri's visual interface displays a transcription of what you say, then hands the data off to an appropriate web service or search engine.

Siri’s visual interface displays a transcription of what you say, then hands the data off to an appropriate web service or search engine.

Siri, an artificial intelligence-based voice-recognition startup, launched an iPhone app incorporating its technology on Friday. With the app running, you can address requests to your phone verbally, asking it things like, “Will it rain today?” or “Where is a good place for pizza nearby?” and “I’d like a table for two at Il Fornaio tomorrow night at 7.” The Siri app parses the sound, interprets the request, and hands it off to an appropriate web service, such as OpenTable, Yelp, CitySearch, and so on. It displays the results onscreen as it goes, giving you a chance to correct or adjust your request via onscreen taps.

It’s the most sophisticated voice recognition to appear on a smartphone yet. While Google’s Nexus One offers voice transcription capabilities — so you can speak to enter text into a web form, for instance — the Nexus One doesn’t actually interpret what you’re saying.

Read More http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/02/siri-voice-recognition-iphone/##ixzz0f5YzoxB8

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