By now, everyone is at least tacitly familiar with SIRI. SIRI is Apple’s artificial intelligence (AI) personal assistant for iPhone users. You press and hold the home button on your iPhone, and SIRI asks how she can help you and listens, albeit impatiently, for your request. SIRI may or may not, probably won’t, be able to accommodate your request. However, the list of things SIRI can do is growing. SIRI works by using voice recognition on cloud-based servers to understand what you say and serves up a response on your iOS device. SIRI is joined by Google Now for Android, Amazon’s Alexa for Echo, and Microsoft’s Cortana for Windows 10. Google Now serves the same purpose on Android phones. Microsoft is betting you will value the same type of personal assistant on your Windows desktop, which is why they launched Cortana with the latest release. Amazon built a small shelf-top appliance, Echo, for the specific purpose of bringing it’s AI assistant, Alexa, into your home. Alexa listens for your requests to restock the pantry, but also listens for commands as diverse as turning on the lights or summoning an Uber driver. These are all very powerful AI assistants that get most of their smarts from the cloud.
Bots are AI assistants that live on your device locally. Think of Clippy from the 90’s. Today, bots can help you book travel, manage personal finances, and order pizza among many other things. Bots are purpose built and tailored for specific users. Whereas apps perform any number of a spectrum of functions within their walled gardens, bots traverse the walled gardens to perform a specific task. Whereas Alexa may be the AI assistant to rule them all, bots can be an army of AI assistants to simplify your digital life. Bots have lower processing overhead because they don’t require as much vocabulary, as much human speech comprehension, as the broader AI assistants. The growth of bots is only going to accelerate. In the future, you might not enter a customer’s information into your company database yourself; you might task it out to a bot that was listening to your conversation with the customer through your smartphone headset.
AI assistants are software, but they will transform our hardware. While SIRI lives in the cloud and interfaces with you through your smartphone and bots live on your smartphone or computer and interface with you directly, future AI assistants may be in your ear or in your face. Because, so much of the heavy lifting can be done in the cloud our devices don’t need to do much more than access the cloud. Some have posited that future smartphones may be little more than an earpiece, paired with a palm-sized screen. However, if you’ve heard of Microsoft HoloLens, you might be inclined to think this is in fact the future of mobile computing. HoloLens is an augmented reality (AR) headset, the AR counterpart to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive’s VR headsets. Unlike Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, all of the hardware lives in the headset. The HoloLens is a full computer with AR display and speakers. With this technology, you could not only chat with your AI assistant, you could see a digital projection of your AI assistant and collaborate with them on your work projects.
What does all of this have to do with smart home technology? Of course you can control your smart home with an app on your smartphone. You can view your home’s status and even see camera images on your smartphone through the app. Now, you are on the verge of being able to control your smart home with voice command, what Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, refers to as ‘conversation as a platform’. At Fulkra, we can give our customers cameras with AI analytics to create event notifications and triggers. We can give our customers apps to view, access, and control their smart homes. We can automate the most common functions of the smart home. However, we are at the precipice of being able to provide our customers an AI assistant to actively and intelligently monitor their smart home, make discreet decisions about how to handle event triggers, and adapt automation features to the changing preferences of our customers. If you have questions about what your smart home can do for you, contact Fulkra today.