A Techcrunch article today reported that sources indicate Amazon has purchased Evi, a mobile personal assistant and rival to Apple’s Siri. Apparently the purchase happened several months ago, but has been kept under wraps. Evi was the creation of True Knowledge, a British startup connected with university labs focused on natural language processing. In January, Amazon made another interesting acquisition when it purchased Ivona Software, a text-to-speech and voice recognition technology company featured on Kindle Fire tablets.
What does Amazon have planned for these technologies? Is Amazon on a path to roll out its own Amazon-branded smartphone? Or perhaps their aim is to incorporate more interactive voice technologies into the Kindle reading platform. It would be interesting to see if a true conversational agent could be incorporated into the Kindle. It does seem like a platform where users could greatly benefit from the help of a smart virtual agent. Wouldn’t it be nice, for example, to be able to ask an intelligent virtual agent for book recommendations like the book you just finished? Sure, you can go to the Amazon store online to browse recommendations based on your past buying and browsing history. But wouldn’t it be more compelling to get recommendations from your own virtual personal assistant?
Or maybe a Kindle-based agent could answer questions like “how many pages does this book have compared to the last one I read?” or “how many review stars does this book have compared to the other one that I read by this same author?” or “I don’t want to finish this book, but would you please tell me who the murderer is?” Okay, that last question would be cheating. I’m definitely interested to find out more about what Amazon has planned for the Evi and Ivona capabilities.