My Assistant: Human, or Not?
Enterprise-oriented virtual digital assistants have the potential to help relieve employees from mundane and time-consuming tasks.
Virtual digital assistants (VDAs) have the ability to positively impact lives using what market intelligence firm Tractica describes as "the fusion of speech recognition, natural language processing (NLP), and artificial intelligence (AI) and hold the potential to have a transformative impact on user interfaces in the mobile, automotive, connected home, and enterprise domains, among others."
VDAs also use assistive global positioning service (GPS) technology to track users, provide turn-by-turn instructions for navigation, and utilize numerous apps. Below is a summary of popular digital assistants:
- Cortana - This Microsoft VDA will help you find things on your PC, manage your calendar, track packages, find files, chat with you, and tell jokes. The more you use Cortana, the more personalized your experience will be.
- Google Now – From knowing the weather before you start your day, to planning the best route to avoid traffic, or even checking your favorite team's score while the game is in action, the Google VDA gets you the information you want, when you need it.
- M – Facebook's M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf.
- Siri – Talk to Apple's digital assistant as you would to a friend and it can help you get things done.
These virtual assistants are primarily intended for consumer use. In a whitepaper titled "Digital Personal Assistant for the Enterprise," Intel notes several ways in which these consumer-oriented VDAs fail to meet the needs of the enterprise:
- Don't provide the type of information employees need
- Aren't secure enough to meet enterprise standards
- Emphasize the voice modality over more enterprise-oriented modalities such as emphasis to include touch and gesture
- Form factor tends to be limited to tablets and smartphones, whereas enterprises need assistance on a broader array of platforms
But they do have transformational potential within enterprises, and Intel describes the type of functionality required of an enterprise-oriented digital personal assistant in its whitepaper. Such a tool would take into account "where employees are and what they are doing, as well as the specific capabilities of the device being used." The goal is automating routine tasks, "using user profiles to provide a personalized experience, anticipating the employee's needs, and filtering distractions so employees can focus on their most important tasks."
Accordingly, VDAs have the potential to help relieve employees from mundane and time-consuming tasks hindering them focusing on productive work. Intel has homed in on the idea of modality not just being voice but also touch and gesture -- a familiar theme from Apple.
However VDAs might find their ways into the fabric of communications, they will need to be open enough to integrate while not being too restrictive for employees to accomplish what they want, when they want, and where they want. This, undoubtedly, will be an ongoing challenge.