by Ethan Baron / © 2017, The Mercury News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
It’s no wonder titans of tech are locked in an epic battle of the bots, racing furiously to produce the best virtual assistant.
Their respective help-bots—Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana—promise consumers one of the most valuable commodities in the world: free time.
Thanks to the sudden acceleration of artificial intelligence and advancements in speech recognition and big-data storage, the technology behind virtual assistants is rapidly spreading from phones to cars and homes, and the truly useful helper is approaching fast. The four giants are fighting for the biggest share of a market expected to grow to $12 billion by 2024.
What’s the goal?
“There’s a tremendous amount of promise for these agents to help and assist with many different tasks that we face every day,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.
The ultimate goal is our own personal genie in a bottle that awakens with a word or touch to liberate us from all our mundane tasks, organize our days and nights, and free us from the stress of lives that have become so terribly busy.
One assistant sufficient?
Experts [are] split on whether consumers will be served best by one bot, or more.
“People want one assistant, they don’t want two,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research in San Jose. “You want one assistant, to be very readily available wherever you are.”
However, the various assistants will likely end up somewhat specialized in their expertise, with Google’s Assistant, for example, excelling in providing knowledge and managing schedules, and Microsoft’s Cortana leading on gaming, said VoiceLabs CEO Adam Marchick. In a few years, many people will use two or three different assistants, Marchick predicted.
The industry stands at a critical moment, because the first highly effective help-bot to get a foothold in a consumer’s home, phone or car will likely stay, creating a barrier to competitors, Marchick said.
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