Techcrunch reported last week that Yahoo might be working with Robin Labs on a Yahoo-version of the white label Robin Labs intelligent assistant. According to the story, the Siri-like virtual assistant was supposed to stay under wraps for a while, but the story surfaced after a video with the Yahoo-branded app was leaked.
Robin Labs has developed a technology platform that incorporates speech recognition, natural language processing, and task-based building blocks that it refers to as task agents. I looked through the Robin Labs website to see if I could detect whether they use a third party solution for speech recognition and NLP, but I didn’t see any references in that regard. That leads me to surmise that Robin Labs has its own proprietary NLP technology, but I could be wrong.
The task agent platform is called Robin.AI and consists of granular components of functionality such as messaging capability, note taking, calendar administration, traffic and weather. Non-programmers can apparently build their own custom intelligent virtual assistants by starting with the core Robin.AI platform and then plugging in task agents to configure the kind of intelligent assistant they need. If a pizza delivery shop wants to create their own virtual agent, for example, they can assemble the traffic and messaging app to send alerts to drivers in case of traffic back-ups. That’s a simple example, but it illustrates the intended flexibility of the building block platform.
Another aspect of Robin.AI is that the platform tracks user data, including user preferences, so that it can learn to infer user intent. For example, an intelligent assistant based on Robin.AI can make note of the fact that you like music by the rock band Boston and that you are currently in the car listening to your iPod. So if you say “I feel like Boston,” the assistant has enough information to extrapolate that you want to hear a Boston tune (and not get driving directions to Boston, for example).
It remains to be seen if Yahoo really is building an intelligent assistant app based on the Robin.AI platform. It wouldn’t be an unexpected move, since the prevalence and importance of virtual agent technologies is undoubtedly on the upswing.