Don’t you get a suspicion when you’re using an app and realize someone is watching you? Someone is there to proactively suggest the thing that you didn’t even know you wanted three minutes ago?

Well, you are not alone. Something, if not someone, is really in there. And you’re indeed not alone as millions of people share your feeling that someone is anticipating your moves like which shoe you’ll like or even warning you about the late night impulse buy, the foosball table, is bad for your economic health this month.

Well, as they say, when you can’t defeat them – join them. So please welcome the army of BOTS (shortened for Robots) eager to help you, to treat you like a king or a toddler, and in turn drive up the business of their benefactor.

Who are these BOTs any ways? Let’s start with some twisted history.

The first BOT to hold millions’ fancy and pave the invasion was of course SIRI. The sassy assistant on iPhone that amused people with quips and ability to call, open the apps, or book a hotel. SIRI brought the promise of an intelligent agent to masses. SIRI is said to be fielding billions of queries a week.

But the promise of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) agent isn’t new. It harkens back to the ideas of the neural networks and expert systems of 80s’ which promised harnessing of the artificial intelligence algorithms and make machines smarter so they could help in decision making.

The biggest challenge then was lack of computing power and reliable connectivity to knowledge bases around the world. Well, those concerns have long gone, but there are new issues like Natural Language Processing (NLP) when companies want customers to interact with them in natural language. The NLP, the third on the list of Holy Grails, isn’t yet perfect – that’s why you find yourself shouting ‘Operator’ ‘Operator’ in rage when calling some voice activated system.

Similar issues plagues voice activated assistants like SIRI, Google Now, Alexa I mean they have made a good progress but what’s up with those intones and crazy accents. Am I right? That’s why people choose to engage the voice operated BOTs in privacy of their cars and homes. And it’s attributed to be one of the reasons keeping the percentage of the active users of SIRI very low, around 5 percent.

But don’t take solace in that fact — Invasion won’t stop just because people still know how crazy it looks when they talk back at that poor phone in their hand. BOTs will overcome! (Remember the song)

Allright, let’s look at some of the virtual assistants or the BOTS that are leading the charge:

Mobile Personal Assistants:

SIRI: Siri Is famous for being the first well know agent and also for her sassy humor. She a resident expert on iPhones. She serves 1 billion requests a day.

Google Now: Google Now is Siri’s cousin that resides on Android phone. In secret, he hates Siri’s name recognition.

Alexa (aka echo): Alexa is by Amazon and thus adept at buying things for you. You can enhance Alexa by adding new skills (sort of like app or service) that other companies provide.

Cortana: I think the name Cortana comes from some computer game. She is supposed to be the ubiquitous helper across all the latest Windows devices. People talk about her powers, but she lacks her seat of power (windows phone, I mean)

VIV: This is made by the people who made Siri. Recently Samsung bought it to bolster its portfolio.

Duer: Duer is by Baidu, the search company from China. Baidu is also planning to build self-driven cars in partnership with BMW.

M: You guessed it. Only Facebook was left on the big kids list. M is by Facebook. It first debuted on the messenger app but it has plans to help you everywhere. After all, he/she knows all about you.

Virtual Assistants and Agents

Watson: Along came Watson. The guy, er the machine, who played chess and won million dollars on Jeopardy. Watson platform is powering my services and apps. So in a sense, Watson has potential to influence many more lives than others. Watson is also powering lots of health initiatives. This makes Watson achieve ‘Meaningful’ product category. Trivia: Watson is named after the IBM’s first CEO.

Jarvis: Jarivs is actually a headset by Intel. It pairs with your phone. The big idea is that Jarvis has language processing built in so it can process your queries without sending them to cloud as many devices do. It’s a good idea but value proposition is not clear.

Nina: Nina is by Nuance is targeting to inject AI into the customer service. Nina is a polyglot. She can converse in 43 languages.

Kai: Kai is a banking BOT made Kasisto, a spinoff of SRI International who make SIRI.

XOBI: Another Bank/Money BOT

Mycin: A medical expert system

Braina: Another personal assistant for Windows OS. Anyone remembers antics of Clippy?

Deep Blue: Everyone remembers IBM’s chess player that beat the Grandmaster

Shaky: Personal bartending BOT

 Humanoid Robots

Asimo: This the most famous humanoid by Honda. The brand publicity it got for Honda is in billions.

Romeo: This robot is planned to be in service in senior care businesses by 2017.

Actroid: Can function by gesturing, talking, pointing while interacting with people.

The list goes on and on…

So, by this time you know, the invasion is real.

When history of the invasion will be written in future by some BOT, it will write:

They came

They talked er, clumsily at the start

They won.


But you may ask what about

·      Benefits,

·      Pitfalls

When, not if, the invasion is complete:

·      What could go right?

·      What could go wrong?

·      What can I do?

That’s all coming in Part 2.

Stay tuned.

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