One of the key features in top-end smartphones today is a voice-based personal assistant. The notion was initially popularized by Apple’s Siri. Yahoo now plans to spend $10 million in a quest to find a voice-based assistant that is smarter than Siri.
Siri is a fairly smart voice-based assistant, its interface is sleek and enticing, and it does a good job overall. But mobile devices are growing increasingly intelligent by the day and with that, there’s a need for even more intelligent virtual assistants. Think I, Robot-like virtual assistants, and while that may be stretching it a little, that is precisely where we are already headed.
Yahoo plans to stumble on this next-generation of virtual assistants by providing $10 million in research to the Carnegie Mellon University. Specifically, the funds will go to a project called InMind which is an incubator of sorts for creating and testing virtual assistants for mobile devices.
The research will be spread over a time of five years during which, researchers at the university will be able to access the technologies currently supporting Yahoo services. The key aim of the researchers would be to extend the list of applications that can be run using this technology. Students and staff at the university will help test the apps by linking their Yahoo accounts to these experiments.
Without a doubt, there is a lot of improvement possible in the virtual assistant arena. And Yahoo is banking on finding the next big improvement before others do, which may give the company’s mobile apps a huge boost. Ron Brachman, the head of Yahoo Labs has said that a virtual assistant should be able to indulge in a basic form of conversation, rather than the rigid Q&A format followed by Siri.
According to him, the context of a question asked by the user is as important as the question itself. And a virtual assistant should be able to understand this. It is to be noted here that Carnegie Mellon University has created many impressive products and services in the past. However, with this fund from Yahoo, the university may just be able to create a worthy Siri contender.