SRI recently unveiled a new virtual personal assistant product called Kasisto. Two statements in the press release caught my attention. The first was a statement that Kasisto is able to perform complex tasks for the user. These are tasks that require complex domain knowledge. The second statement of interest indicated that enterprises can use Kassisto to integrate their own branded conversational virtual personal assistants into their mobile applications.
Both of these capabilities are lacking in the current generation of virtual agents / intelligent virtual assistants. While top of the line virtual assistants do an adequate job of answering basic customer questions, this same technology is very limited in the types of transactions it can perform. The virtual assistants I know about can commonly add a meeting to a calendar or dial a phone number. But they can’t change your plane reservation or work with your doctor to set up an appointment that fits both of your schedules. (Maybe X.ai’s assistant can do the latter, but it would have to be via email).
What kind of complex tasks can Kasisto perform and what type of training or configuration is required to get the assistant to execute these tasks properly? As of yet, I haven’t been able to find any demos of Kasisto in action. According to the press release, SRI demonstrated their new intelligent assistant at the FinTech Innovation Lab Demo Day in New York City. They demoed the product with BBVA banking group, which is one of their first customers. I could imagine that a smart virtual banking assistant could process your order for more checks, or stop payment on a specific check. It certainly ought to be able to tell you your account balance too, but what other complex tasks can it perform? Perhaps SRI will release a demo of Kassito performing banking transactions soon. An article in American Banker gives the example that Kasisto can correctly answer a question such as “How much money did I spend at Whole Foods this month?” But providing an answer that’s easily searchable doesn’t really qualify as a complex task.
The fact that SRI has designed Kasisto as “conversational platform” that enterprises can build upon is an interesting and exciting approach. If virtual assistants are going to become more mainstream, I think businesses need an easy way to brand their own virtual agent personality and make that personality available to mobile apps. If there’s a mechanism that simplifies the process of creating a virtual agent tailored to the business, that’s a positive thing.
We’ll be on the lookout for more information about SRI’s Kasisto.