What Exactly Is A Virtual Assistant?

January 4th, 2018 in

There’s a whole new category of business that blew up in the last year – the category of “AI Virtual Assistants”.  This is a direct result of the advances in AI and organizational expertise and they are having an immediate impact on the worker of today.

Virtual Assistants Are Core To The AI Exoskeleton

AI Virtual Assistants are a strong element of the AI Exoskeleton that we’ve been speaking about for some time now.  The term AI Virtual Assistant is a difficult one though because it has different meanings to different people and it depends strongly on whether you are evaluating term in a home-based or work-based environment.

If you go to Google and search for “virtual assistants” you return 3.49MM query results.  This is a lot of clutter for a topic that didn’t even exist a few years back.  The services range from having outsourced people who act as an assistant for things like scheduling meetings and managing communications all the way to the more popular digital, AI virtual assistants.  If you dive deeper into this subdivision of the category you quickly uncover that the term is broadly used to refer to any AI-based system that offers help with any of a multitude of tasks.  You have the broad-reaching Siri, Alexa, Cortana and other virtual assistants along with the narrower use case systems like X.ai and Clara for calendaring as well as our very own Eva, an in-meeting virtual assistant that takes notes and help organize your follow up from meetings.

Virtual assistants are tools – they are not meant to replace people.  They are intended to replace some of the day-to-day functions and responsibilities of people.  They decrease the time you have to spend on mundane tasks in order to allow you to free up your time to do more interesting, strategic and hopefully impactful things.

Voice Is The Technology Of Choice

As time progresses over the coming months I fully expect to see virtual assistants engage with one another using basic API technology or through the utilization of voice.  Voice is the technology of choice for engaging with these tools because we are now at the stage of technological development where the machines can better understand how humans speak rather than vice versa.  We don’t need to learn the complicated UI of interacting with a machine when we can speak to it and ask it what to do.  Alexa and Siri are doing a great job of laying the groundwork here and getting the average consumer comfortable with speaking to machines and tools like Voicera will continue to benefit immensely from that groundwork being set.

Here are just a few of the ways you can expect to use a virtual assistant on a day to day basis:

  • Get your daily news and weather update
  • Review your schedule for the day
  • Book meetings and schedule appointments in your calendar
  • Take notes in a meeting and share those notes for follow-up
  • Get better directions to enable you to go from one meeting to the next
  • Find recipe’s that you can make for dinner with the ingredients you have vs. what you need to get
  • Book travel, for both personal or for business
  • Optimize your week by aggregating chores together in timely blocks
  • And much, much more…

Virtual assistants are an amazing way to create value by the better utilization of time.  They save you time, which you can then use for other, better things.

It’s an exciting time to be in technology!

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