June 3, 2016
Siri was originally released in the iOS Apple store by Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer as an independent app before being acquired by Apple in April 2010. It was the first generation of virtual assistants and helped users find answers to their questions by translating spoken words into internet search queries. Within a few short years, Kittlaus and Cheyer left Apple, but they didn’t stop refining their chatbot idea.
At the TechCruch Disrupt event in New York in Early May, Kittlaus unveiled Viv, the second generation of Siri. It is poised to completely change the way we interact with our smartphones and the internet.
The Power of Viv
Kittlaus began his demonstration with a simple inquiry that Siri would have no trouble understanding.
What’s the weather like at home today?
Viv then produced the day’s weather forecast, but from there, Kittlaus began to ramp up the sophistication of his questions.
Did it rain three Thursdays ago?
Will it be warmer than 70 degrees near the golden gate bridge after 5 pm the day after tomorrow?
In both instances, Viv was able to summon accurate weather information by recognizing the user’s intent within the sentence. Viv acknowledged that the Golden Gate Bridge was a location, identified a time, and accurately displayed the desired result.
Viv and Your Apps
What is perhaps most interesting about Viv is that it doesn’t by default use search engine queries like Siri. For the most part, Siri simply plugs your spoken words into a search engine and display results. Viv actually accesses your apps.
In the weather examples above, Viv isn’t using Google. It is leveraging the Weather Underground Application, but that is just one example. Below, we walk through some of the examples from the demonstration.
Send Adam 20 bucks for the drinks last night.
Viv pulls up the pay sharing application, Venmo, recognizes “Adam” as one of the contacts within the application, and manipulates the app to send $20 with a typed message along with it that read “For the drinks last night.” All Kittlaus has to do next is tap accept.
Kittlaus does similar demonstrations by calling an Uber, ordering flowers, and refining his flower search to only tulips without starting over. All of these interactions with Viv happened inside the Viv application. Kittlaus never leaves the Viv screen.
Dynamic Program Generator: Virtual Assistants
Viv is impressive on the surface, but the ways in which it accomplishes these queries is just as impressive. Viv is taught to analyze speech, and based on what it discovers, write and carry out an executable file.
It’s a new but inevitable approach to chatbots. As we incorporate and use more and more applications in our daily lives, we’ll begin to require an assistant like Viv to navigate through it all with speed and accuracy. At the same time, the amount of code it would require for a pre-programed chatbot to be able to utilize every app on the device would slow down its processes to unusable speeds.
Viv is kept lean by writing much of its code on the fly, thereby becoming the assistant we will sorely need in the future and doing so at a speed to keep pace with our day.
What Does this Mean for the Future?
If Viv is truly as intuitive as it appears, it could mean the beginning of a whole new era in technology. By leveraging the applications already on our phones and doing so with such accuracy and range of commands, we may never manually use an application again. The standard expected way in which we interact with our devices could quickly revolve around Viv.
From there, use will clearly influence the design of next generation devices. When our hands play a much more limited role in how we interact with technology, we’ll turn to something more conducive to voice operations.
Perhaps this is the breakthrough the Smartwatch has been waiting for.
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