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[Discussion] Virtual Assistant: Technology Explained

2017-12-01 02:29:54
18635 201

Hello Mi Fans,

As of 2017, the capabilities and usage of virtual assistants is expanding rapidly, with new products entering the market. An online poll in May 2017 found the most widely used in the US were Apple's Siri (34%), Google Assistant (19%), Amazon Alexa (6%), and Microsoft Cortana (4%). Facebook's M is expected to be available to hundreds of millions on Facebook Messenger in 2017. Apple and Google have large installed bases of users on smartphones and Microsoft has a large installed base of Windows-based personal computers (where Cortana works in addition to phones and smart speakers); meanwhile, Alexa was the first to get the ability to place online e-commerce orders, from Amazon. So what's the technology behind these Virtual Assistant anyway? Let's discuss shall we?

Virtual Assistant: A short Brief

A virtual assistant is a software agent that can perform tasks or services for an individual. Sometimes the term "chatbot" is used to refer to virtual assistants generally or specifically those accessed by online chat (or in some cases online chat programs that are for entertainment and not useful purposes). A virtual assistant, also called AI assistant or digital assistant, is an application program that understands natural language voice commands and completes tasks for the user. Such tasks, historically performed by a personal assistant or secretary, include taking dictation, reading text or email messages aloud, looking up phone numbers, scheduling, placing phone calls and reminding the end user about appointments. Popular virtual assistants currently include Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana - the digital assistant built into Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10.

Virtual Assistant: reference Video

Method of interaction - Virtual assistants make work via:

  • Text (online chat), especially in an instant messaging app or other app
  • Voice, for example with Amazon Alexa on the Amazon Echo device, or Siri on an iPhone
  • By taking and/or uploading images.
  • Some virtual assistants are accessible via multiple methods, such as Google Assistant via chat on the Google Allo app and via voice on Google Home smart speakers.

Virtual assistants use natural language processing (NLP) to match user text or voice input to executable commands. Many continually learn using artificial intelligence techniques including machine learning. To activate a virtual assistant using the voice, a wake word might be used. This is a word or groups of words such as "Alexa" or "OK Google".

Virtual assistants can provide a wide variety of services, and particularly those from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant grow by the day. These include:

  • Provide information such as weather, facts from e.g. Wikipedia or IMDB, set an alarm, make to-do lists and shopping lists
  • Play music from streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora; play radio stations; read audiobooks
  • Play videos, TV shows or movies on televisions, streaming from e.g. Netflix
  • Buy items from e.g. Amazon
  • Complement and/or replace customer service by humans. One report estimated that an automated online assistant produced a 30% decrease in the work-load for a human-provided call centre.

Types of virtual assistants: Though this definition focuses on the digital form of virtual assistants, the term virtual assistant, or virtual personal assistant, is also commonly used to describe contract workers who work from home doing administrative tasks typically performed by executive assistants or secretaries. Virtual assistants can also be contrasted with another type of consumer-facing AI programming, called smart advisers. Smart adviser programs are subject-oriented, while virtual assistants are task-oriented.

Virtual assistant devices and technology: Virtual assistants are typically cloud-based programs that require internet-connected devices and/or applications to work. Three such applications are Siri on Apple devices, Cortana on Microsoft Devices and Google Assistant on Android devices. There are also devices dedicated to providing virtual assistance. The most popular ones are available from Amazon, Google and Microsoft. To use the Amazon Echo virtual assistant, called Alexa, users call out the wake word, "Alexa." A light on the device signals to the user it is ready to receive a command, which typically involves simple language requests, such as "what is the weather today," or "play pop music." Those requests are processed and stored in Amazon's cloud.

The technologies that power virtual assistants require massive amounts of data, which feeds artificial intelligence (AI) platforms, including machine learning, natural language processing and speech recognition platforms. As the end user interacts with a virtual assistant, the AI programming uses sophisticated algorithms to learn from data input and become better at predicting the end user's needs.

Virtual Assistant capabilities

Virtual assistants typically perform simple jobs for end users, such as adding tasks to a calendar; providing information that would normally be searched in a web browser; or controlling and checking the status of smart home devices, including lights, cameras and thermostats. Users also task virtual assistants to make and receive phone calls, create text messages, get directions, hear news and weather reports, find hotels or restaurants, check flight reservations, hear music, or play games.

Virtual Assistant privacy concerns

Some consumers have expressed privacy concerns about virtual assistants, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, because these virtual assistants require large amounts of personal data and are always "listening" in order to respond to voice commands. Virtual assistants then retain voice interactions and personal information to improve the user experience.

Cortana, for example, works best by using data from a user's device, including emails and other communications, a user's contacts, location data, search history, and data from other Microsoft services and skills -- third-party applications -- that users choose to connect with. Users can choose not to sign in and share this data with Cortana, and adjust permissions to prevent certain data from being collected, though these actions limit the virtual assistant's usefulness.

Virtual assistant providers also maintain privacy policies, which define how each company uses and shares personal information. In most cases, companies do not share customer-identifiable information without a customer's consent.

The future of Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants are quickly evolving to provide more capabilities and value to users. As speech recognition and natural language processing advances, so too will a virtual assistant's ability to understand and perform requests. And as voice recognition technology improves, virtual assistant use will move deeper into business workflows. So do you guys need to the support of a Virtual Assistant? Do REPLY down your opinions as comments below!

Source: 1, 2, 3

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2017-12-01 02:29:54
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Technology Behind - Explained!
A column used for explaining the technology used behind the latest innovative Products.
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Master Bunny

Ayush Bhosle | from Redmi Note 4


sure! virtual assistant services are indeed helpful :)
2017-12-01 02:47:20

Semi Pro Bunny

Adarshkumar28 | from Mi A1


my vote to Siri
2017-12-01 03:38:04

Mi FC President

DHRUV KUMAR | from Redmi Note 4


My vote to yes for VA & hope to see Mi assistant in Global MIUI
2017-12-01 13:21:11
Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.<font color="DarkOrange">
Mi Explorer.[/

Master Bunny

meetgour | from Redmi Y1


nice.   thanks for sharing...
2017-12-07 14:59:28

Super Moderator

Furqaan | from Redmi Note 4


Amazing.. I must say virtual assistant are pretty much helpful to us! It's the future!!
2017-12-08 00:04:40


Hari Sankar G Author |


Ayush Bhosle replied at 2017-12-01 13:17:20
sure! virtual assistant services are indeed helpful :)

Yes sir it is :)
2017-12-08 10:40:42

Tech - Moderator
Mi FC Trivandrum - President


Hari Sankar G Author |


DHRUV KUMAR replied at 2017-12-01 23:51:11
My vote to yes for VA & hope to see Mi assistant in Global MIUI

Same feeling here bro :)
2017-12-08 10:41:04

Tech - Moderator
Mi FC Trivandrum - President


Hari Sankar G Author |


Furqaan replied at 2017-12-08 10:34:40
Amazing.. I must say virtual assistant are pretty much helpful to us! It's the future!!

And the future is now! :D
2017-12-08 10:41:33

Tech - Moderator
Mi FC Trivandrum - President

Advanced Bunny

Zoro12 | from Mi A1


thanks for the update and for the record
2017-12-08 12:45:50

Master Bunny

Vikas kuri | from app


nice information thanks for sharing
2017-12-08 20:51:32
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