The race for the best artificial intelligence-fueled, voice-enabled digital assistant gets more competitive with each passing week.
Thus the ides of June brought news that Toshiba USA will add a new key to Windows PC’s that would summon Microsoft’s Cortana—and in so doing possibly replace the venerable ESC key. Regardless of the position, it’s obvious that Microsoft is seeking to maximize awareness and use of its digital assistant by locking in key real estate, reports The Register.
At roughly the same time, BGR broke the news that the beta version of Hound from SoundHound had eaten the lunch of the best known personal assistant dogs in a test conducted by Typhone.nl. Seems that Hound leads the pack in learning its master’s intentions based on signals from questions that could naturally lead to related questions.
Meanwhile, the folks who invented Siri and sold it to Apple for $200 million are at it again. This time the technology is called Viv and its creators are seeking nothing less than world domination of voice search via artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
In February, TechCrunch reported that Viv Labs had raised $12.5 million in Series B funding led by Iconic Capital—AKA the “Silicon Valley billionaires club.” The report said that the round “was oversubscribed and values the company at north of nine figures.”
What makes Viv different from Siri? While the latter can only respond to what it’s been expensively and painstakingly programmed to understand, Viv will constantly learn to parse natural language and complicated questions by plucking information from third parties throughout the Internet. The more it does, the smarter it gets. If all goes well, eventually Viv will respond to voice commands when you tell it to close your garage door from the office or turn off your car’s headlights in the airport parking lot once you’re on the plane.
In the May 15 issue of Esquire (once you get past the cover image of Charlize Theron in fetching black), writer John H. Richardson does a deep dive on Viv and its three founders, Chris Brigham, Adam Cheyer and Dag Kittlaus. They believe that what they are doing will completely change the way advertising works online—including paid search.
Take travel. The Esquire story relates how Cheyer asks Viv “What’s the status of JetBlue 133?” The technology knows enough to access flight data from FlightStats.com and quickly retorts “Late again, what’s new?” The exercise progresses: “What’s the best available seat on Virgin 351 next Wednesday?” Viv taps into Travelport, which is the back end for Expedia and Orbitz, finds 28 seats and then hits up SeatGuru.com for specifics on those 28 seats. Why is that? Because Viv already knows—via a private, linked database of Cheyer’s personal information titled “My Stuff”—that he prefers aisle seats and extra legroom.
The whole thing ends with Viv using Cheyer’s credit card information to book the seat.
How could this scenario influence (as in, reduce) the amount of money that marketers like Priceline pay to buy keywords? Too soon to tell. But such an early valuation of Viv “north of nine figures” suggests that some pretty smart people believe it could.
There’s not much on the Viv website just yet, but you can subscribe to receive news going forward. And one other thing: “If you’re an insanely talented developer with an interest in the future of A.I. we’re always looking for top tier people to join our team. Please inquire at [email protected] for more information.”
By Acronym staffers