How to Build & Integrate a Virtual Personal Assistant

May 13, 2016 | Raj Srivastav

How to Build & Integrate a Virtual Personal Assistant
How to Build & Integrate a Virtual Personal Assistant

Siri, Cortana, and Google Now have all ceded some of the spotlight to new technologies (such as the Ambient User Experience we discussed yesterday), but at the end of the day, Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) such as the three listed above, will lead the way to Artificial Intelligence. AI may seem like a pipe dream but here’s the shocker: we’re already living in a world of AI.

A Virtual Personal Assistant like Siri is an AI – just a very limited one. We tend to think of AI as C-3PO, or Sonny from I, Robot, but those are just advanced (fictionalized) versions of AI. There are three broad types of AI:

1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) or Weak AI

This is an AI like Siri or Chess Wiz cum Cognitive Chef IBM’s Watson. While they have more raw computing power than humans, they lack the cognitive awareness and critical thinking aspect that makes humans so special. This is all around us today – from homes to cars to phones. These are computer programs that struggle with the things we humans do naturally, while the things humans have difficulties with (i.e. complex math and languages) are accomplished without breaking a sweat. Figuratively speaking.

2. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) or Strong AI

An AGI is something we have yet to accomplish. This is an AI that is roughly as intelligent as most humans, including our ability to critically analyze issues and to think in the abstract (something very difficult to get machines to do). While we aren’t here yet, it’s not far off. Think about it – Google, Amazon, and Facebook are all working on their own research AI projects. They will crack this.

Not only will they crack it, but it may happen sooner than we think. One of Google’s project’s built an ANI named AlphaGo. AlphaGo then turned around and beat the world champion of one of the hardest games in the world, the ancient Chinese board game Go. While this may seem like Watson and it’s ability to beat Chess Grand Masters, it’s a little different.

Chess is difficult and contain hundreds of different approaches, but Go contains thousands. Winning Go against a master represents a level of abstract thinking previously unheard of in Weak AIs. This may not seem like a big deal to the layman, it is, in actuality, probably one of the most important breakthroughs we’ve seen in AI.

3. Artificial SuperIntelligence (ASI)

Hello Dave. You’re looking well today.” This is the big one – what leaps to mind when most of us think of AI. This is the Holy Grail of the tech world, the moment that will change the human race in ways we can’t comprehend. There are multiple arguments as to what will happen when ASI becomes a reality.

One postulates that they will only be some ASIs will be only slightly smarter than humans while others will be trillions. Another argues that the moment a computer reaches self-awareness, its intelligence will grow at an exponential rate. With this argument, we could go from an advanced AGI to an ASI in seconds. Either way, this will be a pivotal moment in human history.

There are always some fear around AI, from Elon Musk to the average joe. But even Musk recognizes the inevitability of AI. With the help of Y Combinator president Sam Altman, Musk is starting another tech company – OpenAI. The stated mission of this company is to create an AI – and then give it to every person in the world. They feel that this is the best, if not only, way to obviate the potential evils of AI.

And, as mentioned above, companies like Google and Amazon are literally dumping billions of dollars into perfecting this technology. While such lofty technologies like Hal (or a less malevolent AI) are a ways – possibly even decades – off, AGI may be much closer. These things tend to happen in an instant, and the guys working on it have a track record for success.

“We will move from a Mobile-First to an AI First World” Sundar Pichai CEO of Google

On April 28th of this year, Google’s CEO wrote in the company’s annual Founder’s Letter – a break from tradition. In this letter, published on Google’s Official Blog, Pichai indicated Google’s (and it’s parent company Alphabet) future direction – AI. Most importantly to our readers, Pichai points out the significant enterprise applications of AI, beyond that of a virtual assistant app for Android.

Pichai points to Google’s significant investment in Cloud-based technology and Machine Learning algorithms – both important tools for an AI-type technology. More importantly, he points to their clients, such as Spotify, that have used Google’s AI research and services to create advanced AIs of their own – often revolutionizing their industry. What Pichai is driving at here is that the research Google is doing in this area has significant business advantages, such as advanced productivity tools and analytical capabilities.

But we need to move beyond the ties to our devices. In fact devices like an Android or iPhone are going to eventually fade out of existence – and probably in the not too distant future. Here’s another quote from Mr. Pichai:

“Looking to the future, the next big step will be for the very concept of the “device” to fade away.”

But don’t worry, while mobile phones may evaporate water on hot griddle apps will not. Apps are more than just something we use on our phones or tablet. They’re the method through- which we interact with technology, AI and otherwise. Not only are apps unlikely to disappear as a business model, but there is also every reason to believe that the market will grow exponentially.

We are eagerly awaiting the first big break in AGI/ASI, but the smart entrepreneur shouldn’t wait any longer to get their own AI app out there. At SDI, we’ve been building complex algorithms using machine learning and other techniques to build an AI program like a Virtual Personal Assistant for a few years. We’ve seen the early stages of this industry – which means we’ve seen how far we’ve come, and we see the technological precipice upon which we stand.

So, how to setup a Virtual Personal Assistant business? That’s simple – just give our experts a call at 408.805.0495 or contact us here. We can walk you through what it will take to get your smart virtual assistant app launched, as well as the best strategies for sales and revenue generation. Feel free to take a look at our case studies to see some of the 5,000+ projects we’ve completed.

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