Tag Archives: Alexa

Hostess with the Mostest – Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant

Application Integration Opportunities:

  • Microsoft Office, Google G Suite, Apple iWork
    • Advice is integrated within the application, proactive and reactive: When searching in Microsoft Edge, a blinking circle representing Cortana is illuminated.  Cortana says “I’ve collected similar articles on this topic.”  If selected, presents 10 similar results in a right panel to help you find what you need.
  • Personal Data Access and Management
    • The user can vocally access their personal data, and make modifications to that data; E.g. Add entries to their Calendar, and retrieve the current day’s agenda.

Platform Capabilities: Mobile Phone Advantage

Strengthen core telephonic capabilities where competition, Amazon and Microsoft, are relatively week.

  • Ability to record conversations, and push/store content in Cloud, e.g. iCloud.  Cloud Serverless recording mechanism dynamically tags a conversations with “Keywords” creating an Index to the conversation.  Users may search recording, and playback audio clips +/- 10 seconds before and after tagged occurrence.
Calls into the User’s Smartphones May Interact Directly with the Digital Assistant
  • Call Screening – The digital assistant asks for the name of the caller, purpose of the call, and if the matter is “Urgent”
    • A generic “purpose” response, or a list of caller purpose items can be supplied to the caller, e.g. 1) Schedule an Appointment
    • The smartphone’s user would receive the caller’s name, and the purpose as a message back to the UI from the call, currently in a ‘hold’ state,
    • The smartphone user may decide to accept the call, or reject the call and send the caller to voice mail.
  • A  caller may ask to schedule a meeting with the user, and the digital assistant may access the user’s calendar to determine availability.  The digital assistant may schedule a ‘tentative’ appointment within the user’s calendar.
    • If calendar indicates availability, a ‘tentative’ meeting will be entered. The smartphone user would have a list of tasks from the assistant, and one of the tasks is to ‘affirm’ availability of the meetings scheduled.
  • If a caller would like to know the address of the smartphone user’s office, the Digital Assistant may access a database of “generally available” information, and provide it. The Smartphone user may use applications like Google Keep, and any note tagged with a label “Open Access” may be accessible to any caller.
  • Custom business workflows may be triggered through the smartphone, such as “Pay by Phone”.  When a caller is calling a business user’s smartphone, the call goes to “voice mail” or “digital assistant” based on smartphone user’s configuration.  If the user reaches the “Digital Assistant”, there may be a list of options the user may perform, such as “Request for Service” appointment.  The caller would navigate through a voice recognition, one of many defined by the smartphone users’ workflows.

Platform Capabilities: Mobile Multimedia

Either through your mobile Smartphone, or through a portable speaker with voice recognition (VR).

  • Streaming media / music to portable device based on interactions with Digital Assistant.
  • Menu to navigate relevant (to you) news,  and Digital Assistant to read articles through your portable media device (without UI)

Third Party Partnerships: Adding User Base, and Expanding Capabilities

In the form of platform apps (abstraction), or 3rd party APIs which integrate into the Digital Assistant, allowing users to directly execute application commands, e.g. Play Spotify song, My Way by Frank Sinatra.

  • Any “Skill Set” with specialized knowledge: direct Q&A or instructional guidance  – e.g Home Improvement, Cooking
  • eCommerce Personalized Experience – Amazon
  • Home Automation – doors, thermostats
  • Music – Spotify
  • Navigate Set Top Box (STB) – e.g. find a program to watch
  • Video on Demand (VOD) – e.g. set to record entertainment

 

Smartphone AI Digital Assistant Encroaching on the Virtual Receptionist

Businesses already exist which have developed and sell Virtual Receptionist , that handle many caller needs (e.g. call routing).

However, AI Digital Assistants such as Alexa, Cortana, Google Now, and Siri have an opportunity to stretch their capabilities even further.  Leveraging technologies such as Natural language processing (NLP) and Speech recognition (SR), as well as APIs into the Smartphone’s OS answer/calling capabilities, functionality can be expanded to include:

  • Call Screening –  The digital assistant asks for the name of the caller,  purpose of the call, and if the matter is “Urgent
    • A generic “purpose” response, or a list of caller purpose items can be supplied to the caller, e.g. 1) Schedule an Appointment
    • The smartphone’s user would receive the caller’s name, and the purpose as a message back to the UI from the call, currently in a ‘hold’ state,
    • The smartphone user may decide to accept the call, or reject the call and send the caller to voice mail.
  • Call / Digital Assistant Capabilities
    • The digital assistant may schedule a ‘tentative’ appointment within the user’s calendar.  The caller may ask to schedule a meeting, the digital assistant would access the user’s  calendar to determine availability.  If calendar indicates availability, a ‘tentative’ meeting will be entered.  The smartphone user would have a list of tasks from the assistant, and one of the tasks is to ‘affirm’ availability of the meetings scheduled.
    • Allow recall of ‘generally available’ information.  If a caller would like to know the address of the smartphone user’s office, the Digital Assistant may access a database of generally available information, and provide it.  The Smartphone user may use applications like Google Keep, and any note tagged with a label “Open Access” may be accessible to any caller.
    • Join the smartphone user’s social network, such as LinkedIn. If the caller knows the phone number of the person, but is unable to find the user through the social network directory, an invite may be requested by the caller.
    • Custom business workflows may also be triggered through the smartphone, such as “Pay by Phone”.

Uncommon Opportunity? R&D Conversational AI Engineer

I had to share this opportunity.  The Conversational AI Engineer role will continue to be in demand for some time.


Title: R&D Conversational AI Engineer
Location: Englewood Cliffs, NJ
Duration: 6+ months Contract(with Possible extension)

Responsibilities:

  • Create Alexa Skills, Google Home Actions, and chatbots for various direct Client’s brands and initiatives.
  • Work with the Digital Enterprises group to create production-ready conversational agents to help Client emerge in the connected life space.
  • Create additional add-ons to the conversational agents
  • Work with new technologies not be fully documented yet
  • Work with startups and their technology emerging in the connected life space.

Quals–
Client is looking for a developer in conversational AI and bot development.

What is Media Labs?   Media Labs is dedicated to driving a collaborative culture of innovation across all of Clients . We serve as an internal incubator and accelerator for emerging technology and are leading the way with fresh ideas to ignite the future of media and storytelling. We are committed to partnering with another telecom giant, startups, research and academic groups, content creators and brands to further innovation at client. One of our main themes is connected life and we are looking for an engineer to lead this development.

Requirements for R&D Engineer: –

  • Bachelor in Computer Science, Engineering, or other related field
  • Experience working with new technologies that may not be fully documented yet
  • Experience communicating technology to non-technical people
  • Experience with AWS (Lambda, CloudWatch, S3, API Gateway, etc)
  • Experience with JavaScript, Node.js
  • Some experience creating Alexa Skills, Google Home Actions, or chatbots

Optional Requirements:

  • Experience creating iOS or Android applications (native or non-native)
  •  Experience with API.AI or another NLP engine (Lex, Watson Conversation)

AI Digital Assistant verse Search Engines

Aren’t AI Digital Assistants just like Search Engines? They both try to recognize your question or human utterance as best as possible to serve up your requested content. E.g.classic FAQ. The difference in the FAQ use case is the proprietary information from the company hosting the digital assistant may not be available on the internet.

Another difference between the Digital Assistant and a Search Engine is the ability of the Digital Assistant to ‘guide’ a person through a series of questions, enabling elaboration, to provide the user a more precise answer.

The Digital Assistant may use an interactive dialog to guide the user through a process, and not just supply the ‘most correct’ responses. Many people have flocked to YouTube for instructional type of interactive medium. When multiple workflow paths can be followed, the Digital Assistant has the upper hand.

The Digital Assistant has the capability of interfacing with 3rd parties (E.g. data stores with API access). For example, there may be a Digital Assistant hosted by Medical Insurance Co that has the ability to not only check the status of a claim, but also send correspondence to a medical practitioner on your behalf. A huge pain to call the insurance company, then the Dr office, then the insurance company again. Even the HIPPA release could be authenticated in real time, in line during the chat.  A digital assistant may be able to create a chat session with multiple participants.

Digital Assistants overruling capabilities over Search Engines are the ability to ‘escalate’ at any time during the Digital Assistant interaction. People are then queued for the next available human agent.

There have been attempts in the past, such as Ask.com (originally known as Ask Jeeves) is a question answering-focused e-business.  Google Questions and Answers (Google Otvety, Google Ответы) was a free knowledge market offered by Google that allowed users to collaboratively find good answers, through the web, to their questions (also referred as Google Knowledge Search).

My opinions are my own, and do not reflect my employer’s viewpoint.

Hey Siri, Ready for an Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple? Guess Who’s Suing.

The AI personal assistant with the “most usage” spanning  connectivity across all smart devices, will be the anchor upon which users will gravitate to control their ‘automated’ lives.  An Amazon commercial just aired which depicted  a dad with his daughter, and the daughter was crying about her boyfriend who happened to be in the front yard yelling for her.  The dad says to Amazon’s Alexa, sprinklers on, and yes, the boyfriend got soaked.

What is so special about top spot for the AI Personal Assistant? Controlling the ‘funnel’ upon which all information is accessed, and actions are taken means the intelligent ability to:

  • Serve up content / information, which could then be mixed in with advertisements, or ‘intelligent suggestions’ based on historical data, i.e. machine learning.
  • Proactive, suggestive actions  may lead to sales of goods and services. e.g. AI Personal Assistant flags potential ‘buys’ from eBay based on user profiles.

Three main sources of AI Personal Assistant value add:

  • A portal to the “outside” world; E.g. If I need information, I wouldn’t “surf the web” I would ask Cortana to go “Research” XYZ;   in the Business Intelligence / data warehousing space, a business analyst may need to run a few queries in order to get the information they wanted.  In the same token, Microsoft Cortana may come back to you several times to ask “for your guidance”
  • An abstraction layer between the user and their apps;  The user need not ‘lift a finger’ to any app outside the Personal Assistant with noted exceptions like playing a game for you.
  • User Profiles derived from the first two points; I.e. data collection on everything from spending habits, or other day to day  rituals.

Proactive and chatty assistants may win the “Assistant of Choice” on all platforms.  Being proactive means collecting data more often then when it’s just you asking questions ADHOC.  Proactive AI Personal Assistants that are Geo Aware may may make “timely appropriate interruptions”(notifications) that may be based on time and location.  E.g. “Don’t forget milk” says Siri,  as your passing the grocery store.  Around the time I leave work Google maps tells me if I have traffic and my ETA.

It’s possible for the [non-native] AI Personal Assistant to become the ‘abstract’ layer on top of ANY mobile OS (iOS, Android), and is the funnel by which all actions / requests are triggered.

Microsoft Corona has an iOS app and widget, which is wrapped around the OS.  Tighter integration may be possible but not allowed by the iOS, the iPhone, and the Apple Co. Note: Google’s Allo does not provide an iOS widget at the time of this writing.

Antitrust violation by mobile smartphone maker Apple:  iOS must allow for the ‘substitution’ of a competitive AI Personal Assistant to be triggered in the same manner as the native Siri,  “press and hold home button” capability that launches the default packaged iOS assistant Siri.
Reminiscent of the Microsoft IE Browser / OS antitrust violations in the past.

Holding the iPhone Home button brings up Siri. There should be an OS setting to swap out which Assistant is to be used with the mobile OS as the default.  Today, the iPhone / iPad iOS only supports “Siri” under the Settings menu.

ANY AI Personal assistant should be allowed to replace the default OS Personal assistant from Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana to any startup company with expertise and resources needed to build, and deploy a Personal Assistant solution.  Has Apple has taken steps to tightly couple Siri with it’s iOS?

AI Personal Assistant ‘Wish” list:

  • Interactive, Voice Menu Driven Dialog; The AI Personal Assistant should know what installed [mobile] apps exist, as well as their actionable, hierarchical taxonomy of feature / functions.   The Assistant should, for example, ask which application the user wants to use, and if not known by the user, the assistant should verbally / visually list the apps.  After the user selects the app, the Assistant should then provide a list of function choices for that application; e.g. “Press 1 for “Play Song”
    • The interactive voice menu should also provide a level of abstraction when available, e.g. User need not select the app, and just say “Create Reminder”.  There may be several applications on the Smartphone that do the same thing, such as Note Taking and Reminders.  In the OS Settings, under the soon to be NEW menu ‘ AI Personal Assistant’, a list of installed system applications compatible with this “AI Personal Assistant” service layer should be listed, and should be grouped by sets of categories defined by the Mobile OS.
  • Capability to interact with IoT using user defined workflows.  Hardware and software may exist in the Cloud.
  • Ever tighter integration with native as well as 3rd party apps, e.g. Google Allo and Google Keep.

Apple could already be making the changes as a natural course of their product evolution.  Even if the ‘big boys’ don’t want to stir up a hornet’s nest, all you need is VC and a few good programmers to pick a fight with Apple.

AI Personal Assistant Needs Remedial Guidance for their Users

Providing Intelligent ‘Code’ Completion

At this stage in the application platform growth and maturity of the AI Personal Assistant, there are many commands and options that common users cannot formulate due to a lack of knowledge and experience.  Using Natural Language to formulate questions has gotten better over the years, but assistance / guidance formulating the requests would maximize intent / goal accuracy.

A key usability feature for many integrated development environments (IDE) are their capability to use “Intelligent Code Completion” to guide their programmers to produce correct, functional syntax. This feature also enables the programmer to be unburdened by the need to look up syntax for each command reference, saving significant time.  As the usage of the AI Personal Assistant grows, and their capabilities along with it, the amount of commands and their parameters required to use the AI Personal Assistant will also increase.

AI Leveraging Intelligent Command Completion

For each command parameter [level\tree], a drop down list may appear giving users a set of options to select for the next parameter. A delimiter such as a period(.) indicates to the AI Parser another set of command options must be presented to the person entering the command. These options are typically in the form of drop down lists concatenated to the right of the formulated commands.  Vocally, parent / child commands and parameters may be supplied in a similar fashion.

AI Personal Assistant Language Syntax

Adding another AI parser on top of the existing syntax parser may allow commands like these to be executed:

  • Abstraction (e.g. no application specified)
    • Order.Food.Focacceria.List123
    • Order.Food.FavoriteItalianRestaurant.FavoriteLunchSpecial
  • Application Parser
    • Seamless.Order.Food.Focacceria.Large Pizza

These AI command examples uses a hierarchy of commands and parameters to perform the function. One of the above commands leverages one of my contacts, and a ‘List123’ object.  The ‘List123’ parameter may be a ‘note’ on my Smartphone that contains a list of food we would like to order. The command may place the order either through my contact’s email address, fax number, or calling the business main number and using AI Text to Speech functionality.

All personal data, such as Favorite Italian Restaurant,  and Favorite Lunch Special could be placed in the AI Personal Assistant ‘Settings’.  A group of settings may be listed as Key-Value pairs,  that may be considered short hand for conversations involving the AI Assistant.

A majority of users are most likely unsure of many of the options available within the AI Personal assistant command structure. Intelligent command [code] completion empowers users with visibility into the available commands, and parameters.

For those without a programming background, Intelligent “Command” Completion is slightly similar to the autocomplete in Google’s Search text box, predicting possible choices as the user types. In the case of the guidance provided by an AI Personal Assistant the user is guided to their desired command; however, the Google autocomplete requires some level or sense of the end result command. Intelligent code completion typically displays all possible commands in a drop down list next to the constructor period (.). In this case the user may have no knowledge of the next parameter without the drop down choice list.  An addition feature enables the AI Personal Assistant to hover over one of the commands\parameters to show a brief ‘help text’ popup.

Note, Microsoft’s Cortana AI assistant provides a text box in addition to speech input.  Adding another syntax parser could be allowed and enabled through the existing User Interface.  However, Siri seems to only have voice recognition input, and no text input.

Is Siri handling the iOS ‘Global Search’ requests ‘behind the scenes’?  If so, the textual parsing, i.e. the period(.) separator would work. Siri does provide some cursory guidance on what information the AI may be able to provide,  “Some things you can ask me:”

With only voice recognition input, use the Voice Driven Menu Navigation & Selection approach as described below.

Voice Driven, Menu Navigation and Selection

The current AI personal assistant, abstraction layer may be too abstract for some users.  The difference between these two commands:

  • Play The Rolling Stones song Sympathy for the Devil.
    • Has the benefit of natural language, and can handle simple tasks, like “Call Mom”
    • However, there may be many commands that can be performed by a multitude of installed platform applications.

Verse

  • Spotify.Song.Sympathy for the Devil
    • Enables the user to select the specific application they would like a task to be performed by.
  • Spotify Help
    • A voice driven menu will enable users to understand the capabilities of the AI Assistant.    Through the use of a voice interactive menu, users may ‘drill down’ to the action they desire to be performed. e.g. “Press # or say XYZ”
    • Optionally, the voice menu, depending upon the application, may have a customer service feature, and forward the interaction to the proper [calling or chat] queue.

Update – 9/11/16

  • I just installed Microsoft Cortana for iOS, and at a glance, the application has a leg up on the competition
    • The Help menu gives a fair number of examples by category.  Much better guidance that iOS / Siri 
    • The ability to enter\type or speak commands provides the needed flexibility for user input.
      • Some people are uncomfortable ‘talking’ to their Smartphones.  Awkward talking to a machine.
      • The ability to type in commands may alleviate voice command entry errors, speech to text translation.
      • Opportunity to expand the AI Syntax Parser to include ‘programmatic’ type commands allows the user a more granular command set,  e.g. “Intelligent Command Completion”.  As the capabilities of the platform grow, it will be a challenge to interface and maximize AI Personal Assistant capabilities.