Apple Takes Virtual Agent Technology to a Whole New Level
by Jessica Cody, Marketing Manager
Apple’s announcement last week that they are adding a voice-to-text virtual assistant feature to the iPhone 4S, called Siri, comes as great news for the virtual agent market. Soon, anyone with an iPhone 4S will be able to manage their daily lives simply by giving verbal commands to their iPhone.
CNET reports that the demonstration of the app was done by Steve Forestall, head of Apple iOS, at an Apple event in Cupertino, California. Now, instead of having to search around and take multiple steps through mobile search engines, people can have instant answers delivered to them, without having to do so much as press a button. Speech-to-text is a feature that is widely available, and, now that Apple is integrating it with web self service technology, virtual agents are able to make lives even easier. This functionality is of course not unique to Apple but, like many other technologies, they are popularizing it.
Siri’s functions can accomplish numerous tasks in your daily life, including checking your schedule to set up meetings for you, giving directions and texting your friends while you are driving. It could also potentially make the term “googling” less popular. “This is more of a do engine than a search engine,” explained Norman Winarsky, Siri board member and co-founder, to NPR last week. “This is more of not getting links but getting answers. This is more responding with actions. This is ‘get me a hotel reservation, buy me a ticket, make this calendar adjustment.’ ” Creative Virtual is moving in the same direction with its’ virtual agent capabilities. Our install Ask Verizon can now troubleshoot and fix your Internet connection for you, instead of simply telling you how to do it.
Most of the moves Apple makes as a company spark nationwide trends, so this should bode well for the popularity and evolution of virtual agent technology. In turn, Siri could be great news for companies like Creative Virtual, a leader in virtual assistant natural language web applications that have enabled people to receive instant interactive answers to their questions without having to search or make any phone calls. By taking advantage of voice recognition, Apple has now removed one more step from the process.
Creative Virtual develops virtual agents that provide personalized responses to customers for a wide range of companies. For example, Ask Lisa, the virtual agent for National Rail Enquiries that we created with our partner The Virtual Zone, collects information from the user and completes the Journey Planner with the provided travel details. Apple’s virtual assistant technology is also unique to each individual using it. If Siri knows the restaurant you want to eat at and time you want to eat, it can make dinner reservations for you. Siri adapts to your preferences over time and advances quickly by getting to know you better and understanding a broader set of tasks. So, just like Creative Virtual develops a knowledgebase of information specific to each of their customers, Siri develops a knowledgebase relevant to you and your habits.
Siri is able to use search engine capabilities to search for what it needs, and then its virtual agent sorts out the information for you to find the answer. Similarly, Creative Virtual recently integrated Renault UK’s V-Person™ with Google search functionality. This way, if the knowledgebase does not have the answer the virtual agent needs, the website is searched to find relevant information for the user.
Web self service capabilities are expanding into a new realm. What were once mere fantasies are becoming reality right before our eyes. Virtual agents are officially making their presence known in the world.