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Siri is getting a younger, better little sister called Viv

Viv comes from the same people who made Siri, and it could have the potential to be a real digital assistant.

Google Now and Siri are the two most popular digital assistants out there, but they could be displaced by newer arrivals.
Google Now and Siri are the two most popular digital assistants out there, but they could be displaced by newer arrivals.
Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

IF YOU OWN an iPhone, when was the last time you used Siri? Actually, when was the last time you used a voice assistant like Google Now to carry out a task?

Chances are it rarely happens because they’re only able to deal with basic tasks and questions. While they’ve improved in recent years (to the point where they can give joke answers to certain questions), you’re not going to speak to them like a normal person or expect them to give specific answers.

Yet that could change as a new digital assistant has been announced. Viv comes from the same team who created Siri (before it was bought by Apple), and hopes to bring us a step closer to the type of AI shown in films like Her.

The major difference between it and Siri: Viv can deal with and answer complex questions, something its Apple counterpart struggles with.

Source: TechCrunch/YouTube

Showing it off at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York, the CEO of Viv Dag Kittlaus showed a few examples of it in action, asking it both broad and specific questions as well as making requests.

In one example, it was able to answer whether it would be warmer than 21 degrees near the Golden Gate Bridge after 5pm the day after tomorrow. Not only did it answer that specific question, but it offered additional context with an hour-by-hour weather forecast after that time.

What makes it possible is a combination of different services and a specially designed technology called ”dynamic program generation”. With Kittlaus describing the latter as a “computer science breakthrough”, it allows Viv to write its own programming once it understands the intent of the user. It can also write itself in less than a second.

Traditional digital assistants can only respond once they understand what you’re asking. Sometimes that means asking a question in a specific way or taking into account how it can only answer with certain apps (Siri defaults to a web search when it can’t fulfil a request).

Viv is a more open platform that can integrate with third-party apps and according to its maker, its programming means it can learn and grow faster than other rivals. That might not sound exciting on paper, but it paves the way for an assistant that will tie together different functions and deal with followup questions without needing context.

The work is similar to what the likes of Microsoft and Facebook are doing, both of which announced integration with chatbots, AI that can complete specific tasks like weather reports or ordering goods.

While they’re still relatively new, the reception towards them has been less than positive. Whether Viv can live up to its promise when it’s released to the public is another story entirely, but it has a good chance.

Source: TechCrunch/YouTube

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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