Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Predictive intelligent personal assistants are all the rage. Windows Phone, you need something like this Now.

Google's Now, Apple's Siri, Samsung's S Voice. Next: Grokr, Mailbox, Tempo, Sherpa and more. Predictive personal intelligent digital assistants seem to be all the rage. Is this a big app gap for Windows Phone?

UPDATE: Someone informed me (thanks AC) of the availability of a voice-input digital assistant app called Maluuba which is available for Windows Phone 8.

MIT Tech Review Story >>

Sherpa Pages >>

Tempo Pages >>

KEY MOBILE TRENDS: digital/virtual assistants, predictive services, location-based services

Predictive services aren't cutting edge per se. Amazon, for example, is kind enough to remind us, usually with great accuracy, what we want to buy and for whom and when. Many connected navigation devices & services know enough to automatically re-route us when there is trouble ahead. And TiVo uses some smart algorithms to do some smart guessing when it comes to pre-choosing TV content. Even home thermostats are getting in on the act.

But now, smartphones are getting ahead of the game with more advanced predictive applications using clever data-mining techniques which cross on-device info with cloud-based data. Newer applications like Tempo and Sherpa are actively promoting themselves as "predictive intelligent" services with the intent of being proactive "to keep you one step ahead." Have a flight scheduled in your calendar or e-mail? Apps will check if it is leaving on-time, check the weather, and the volume of traffic on the way to the airport. It could offer to dial the number of anyone who you might be meeting at your destination in case of delays, and even reserve a table.

In many ways I see this as more of a UI evolution toward natural user interfaces with a touch of machine-to-machine services thrown in. Of course there are very natural input methods like voice in Apple's Siri and open-text input like Google's "quick add." But the ability of some of these newer, more advanced applications to work with semantics and break information out of silos could raise users' expectations going forward. Data, services, apps, and connectivity are being folded much deeper into the device's user interface. This isn't just location-based voice search. This has the potential to be pretty smooth.

Oddly enough, the platform vendor which gave the world one of the best known smart agents ever, Clippy, appears to be quite absent in this space. To the best of my knowledge, there's nothing quite like Tempo for Microsoft's Windows Phone. To be fair, Nokia does have some great contextual-based services for Windows Phone and there are a few other interesting innovative proactive-like apps for the platform (update: like Maluuba). In addition, I must confess that I haven't seen any usage statistics for any of this: it could be there won't be much demand. The consumer is always the greatest unknown variable in business-model equations.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't take the risk of leaving this gap. I would say that Windows Phone should check its calendar: the platform needs something like this soon if it wants to keep up with a potential experience shift. Be proactive with proactivity.

[Update: another term I was kindly informed of by AC is "virtual assistant."]



Google Now:

Maluuba for Android and Windows Phone 8:

1 comment:

Michael said...

Yep, Google Now is Clippy Done Right.