Science Magazine

Another Smartphone Personal Assistant Takes on Siri — Hello Maluuba

Posted on the 13 November 2012 by Ningauble @AliAksoz


When Siri first hit the scene, many smartphone users either digged the app or were jealous that they either had an unsupported iPhone or used Android devices. But over the last year or so, more apps have been vying to be your next virtual personal assistant.

The battleground of the virtual personal assistants is starting to get crowded.  First there was Evi. Developed in the UK by True Knowledge, the Evi app also understands real language, can find answers, and provide some witty repartee. Recently, Google released it’s search app on iOS, which includes a voice search that has performed well against Siri in user tests. Other related Android apps include Skyvi, Vlingo, Robin, SpeakToIt, and others on the horizon. Voice-recognizing apps are also being developed in other countries, such as in Spain where a new Spanish-speaking app called Sherpa is under development to go head-to-head with Siri.

The latest is Maluuba, a voice-recognizing search app launched earlier this year on Android that wants to be Siri-like but more focused on the task at hand, instead of being conversational.

Through natural language recognition that uses a statistical model to process commands, Maluuba interprets a spoken phrase and then taps into a variety of services via APIs to complete the request. This produces faster results than using a search engine alone, according to CEO Sam Pasupalak. Furthermore, the app funnels tasks into one of 18 categories with more on the way.

Maluuba was born at the University of Waterloo in 2010 as a research project. Now two years later, the team has raised $2 million from Samsung Ventures, launched an International Edition that pulls data from local services, and started to market the service more aggressively through commercials. Check out this really well directed one aimed to show Siri she isn’t cut out for the job:

Clearly, competition is bringing many players to the table, and that could be quite advantageous for users in that a variety of personalities and specializations could emerge. In fact, there’s really no reason to think that we’d need to limit ourselves to only one assistant app.

This isn’t too much of a surprise, considering that a smartphone is just a computer that you carry in your pocket, and the ability to talk to computers has been a staple of science fiction from early on. In the next few years as the technology matures and more services emerge, users should have a variety of ways to get voice-recognizing assistance.

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