The race is on for a digital virtual assistant that can understand spoken language and provide users with exactly the information they need, when and how they need it. Oh, and the digital agent should be able to carry on a meaningful conversation as well. In a recent PCWorld article covering South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Amit Singhal of Google is quoted as positioning the understanding of speech, natural language, and conversation as some of the key challenges facing the search giant today.
People’s need to search for information has become integral to our interactions with the web. When we are online, we are nearly always searching for something, be it news of the world, updates from friends, information on specific goods and services, or what’s playing at the local cinema or on TV. The list goes on. Google imagines a near-term future where smart virtual agents are embedded in our world, in wearable devices such as Google Glass, and where these agents can quickly act on our behalf to get us the information we need. Our virtual assistants should be able to understand what we’re saying when we speak to them. And they should be able to answer us in a way that’s not only informative, but natural.
Competing with Google in the arena of intelligent voice-activated agents, albeit indirectly, are companies that provide voice recognition systems for use across multiple problem spaces. In my next post, I’ll take a look at an article that examines some of the companies in this arena and that highlights how today’s most successful virtual agents are deployed. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the referenced article with information from Google’s Amit Singhal.