The Future of VAs – All for One or One for All?

At Mobile Voice Conference this year there was quite a debate about whether the future of mobile personal assistants would be an all knowing, all seeing powerful one or a series of assistants that link together to form an army of domain specialist virtual assistants that can ‘talk’ to each other.

It’s no secret which way we think it will be at Artificial Solutions, the week before the conference we launched the Teneo Network of Knowledge at Mobile World Congress and you can read more about it here.

The problem with virtual assistants at the moment is that their knowledge is often limited and based on their “patch”. Talk to a virtual assistant from a utilities company and ask it about car parts… well you get the drift.

It’s not realistic to expect one company to be able to develop specialist knowledge on anything and everything someone might ask their virtual assistant, the scope is just too vast. For instance it’s highly unlikely that someone living in the remotest part of Africa will have the same needs and questions as someone living in central Manhattan.

That’s why we believe the answer is for a platform such as Teneo that enables developers to easily create their own specialist virtual assistants that can then link together to deliver the end-user a seamless experience. So it’s not just one virtual assistant, but a whole army of them ready to serve.

However, you still need a central personal assistant, one that can answer the basics, but knows who to ask for the right answer if it’s not part of their skill set. This personal assistant would have a deeper understanding of the individual user based on explicit knowledge such as those defined in settings and implicit knowledge , where the assistant learns through cognitive thinking that, for example, when you are hungry you always go to McDonald’s.

The relevant section of this knowledge can then be passed on to enable the specialist VA to answer more precisely even if the user has never interacted with that assistant before. An example of this might be that you prefer business class and an aisle seat when flying, should your normal carrier not be available for a particular flight this data can be passed to the replacement airline ensuring that the transaction is completed as quickly as possible.

So going back to the debate, we actually believe it will be a combination of both a single personal assistant that controls and directs questions, which is supported by a vast number of specialist virtual assistants. Now the only question is how to decide which specialist assistant should be the one to deliver the answer, but that’s a blog for another time.

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