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OK Chatbot, Tell me everything about Siri, Assistant and Alexa.

We are at a paradigm shift in history, where almost everything is a computer. There is even a whole industry on everything having Internet connectivity. At Kinectra, we believe smart homes, smart speakers and smart cars are here to stay. Artificial Intelligence is embedding itself in our daily life, but currently, we are witnessing the precursor to full-blown AI. Today's blog will focus on those smart systems, mainly the chatbots that run our lives. There are two sides to chatbots commercial and enterprise. This blog will focus on the commercial side.

If you didn't know, chatbots are programs that simulate a conversation. Typically, a person will ask a question and the chatbot would respond with an answer. The purpose of them in them in the early 2000s was to simulate a conversation with a robot. Over time, these programs were updated to create some of the most immersive experiences you could have. The big game changer was the integration of machine learning into these online technologies and that spurred a revolution. At the time almost everybody has access to a chatbot, but they are also called virtual assistants. The assistants we are going to discuss are Siri, Google and Alexa because each of them has made a significant innovation in history. To note, these chatbots are not AI of sci-fi dreams, but they are moving the right direction.


Siri is the by-product of a former DARPA funded project from the SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center, using a speech recognition engine from Nuance Communications. In 2010, Siri was initially released as a standalone app to the App Store, with plans to integrate into Android and Blackberry; however, Apple bought the app two months later. Siri was reintroduced to the world in 2011 on iOS 5, with the release of the iPhone 4s. Siri was important because it was the first commercial virtual assistant. Additionally, it used existing web apps to answer questions like Yelp, OpenTable and WolframAlpha. The technology in Siri was groundbreaking because it could gather a plethora of information, with the sound of your voice. Siri has become a paramount part of the Apple interface, especially with the integrations into all Apple platforms.


In the fall of 2014, Amazon released the Amazon Echo with Amazon Alexa built-in. The Echo and Alexa are the fruits of three years of research and development and one thing that makes Alexa standout is that it is a fully cloud-based assistant. Alexa is Amazon’s first iteration of a virtual assistant; however, it was built in mind to be more of a smart home hub. In addition to being a virtual assistant, Alexa is an also a cloud-based voice service, similar to Google voice, but limited by some features. Using Alexa, people could order things on Amazon with just a word, play their music or just talk about the weather. Alexa also introduced third-party support early, with the use of Skills, that can be downloaded to enhance Alexa’s programming. The interesting thing about Alexa is that is a program built with-in a speaker, but in order to increase market share, Amazon started to integrate Alexa into Fire OS devices, such as the Fire TV and Kindle Fire. They even built an app for iOS and Android devices.


In 2016, Google debuted the Google Assistant on their messaging application Allo. Taking both the Amazon and Apple strategy, Google introduced their own speaker, Google Home, and their own phone, Google Pixel, respectively later the same year. Each device focused on the capabilities of Google Assistant to work. Similar to Alex’s Skills, Google launched third-party support early on, to add more features to the system. The overall goal of Google Assistant was to be able to have a natural conversation with the program, which had become muddled in some of the other popular assistants. Google Assistant can do as much of the same things that both Siri and Alexa can do. Google also has an app for older Android and all iOS devices.


The conversation of virtual assistants is important because they have taken a huge hold on everyday life while pushing innovation forward. In order to keep their market share, each company has rapidly expanded their influence into other areas. Apple continues to keep Siri a proprietary to all their devices while venturing out to create cool integrations like the AirPods. Amazon has licensed out Alexa to a plethora of third-party devices, such as speakers and televisions while expanding their Echo lineup to include more visual components. Google at CES 2018 recently debuting a plethora of third-party devices that Assistant will run on such as speakers and smart displays. At this point, each of the companies has pushed each other to add similar features to their assistants, but to their disservice virtually making their products indistinguishable, except by personal preference.


The argument can be made that virtual assistants are an introduction to AI and that wouldn't be a wrong assumption. As fun and campy as each system has become, people forget the amount of technology that is in each of the devices. All of the assistants are fundamentally smart chatbots that use deep machine learning, advanced speech recognition and natural language understanding to create an experience of functional conversation. The convenience is there but innovation is there too. The idea in which we can talk to these systems and expect full autonomy is a bit far off, but it seems like something not impossible.


Kinectra attended CES 2018 in early January and witnessed the industry takeover by Google Assistant and Alexa. We see these chatbots as a simple way to make a mark in the world. Chatbots are easy to implement and can be programmed to assist you or your company in the day-to-day operations. At Kinectra, we want to do our part in creating innovative processes and help businesses reach their full potential. Implementing chatbots into programs like ServiceNow can be game changers due to ServiceNow’s Knowledge Management module, a program that holds all the information for your company. We see these chatbots becoming a major force in 2019 and with the speed of innovation in machine learning, we can only see functionally and integration of the programs to continually increase.


Chatbots are a technology that is here for the betterment of society; they are going to continue to get better as people continue to pioneer and challenge what’s possible. Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant are entry-level chatbots or virtual assistants that are being used to create a more connected world. At Kinectra, we are futurist that will continue to work and stay ahead of trends because we believe that is the best way to help our clients.


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