Self Expression Magazine

How Intelligent Assistants Will Anticipate Our Needs

By Expectlabs @ExpectLabs

Anticipatory computing is another area where intelligent assistants will shine. Watch our founder explain how this technology will enable software to know precisely what you want — even before you do.

Follow up with this video that explains how contextual computing will enhance the intelligence of digital assistants.


Hi, my name is Tim Tuttle. I’m the CEO of Expect Labs. I’m putting together a video series on how we think intelligent assistants are going to get better over the next few years, and today we’re going to talk about how intelligent assistants a few years from now are going be able to do a much better job anticipating the information that we need.

Now we talk a lot about this at Expect Labs, because we think we’re entering this age where if you let your devices pay attention to certain things that are happening in your life, like, where you’ve been and where you’re going, or some of the things that you’re saying. These devices are actually smart enough and have a memory of what you’ve done in the. past so that they can do a better job getting you information that you need, in some cases, hopefully before you even need to ask for it. There are certain products on the market right now that do this to some extent. A lot of you might be familiar with Google Now, which is an intelligent assistant, a contextual assistant, that lives on Android devices and also iOS devices that does things like look at your location history, where you’ve been, where you’re going, looks at certain things, topics that you might be interested in based on your email or other messages that you read. Then it tries to make helpful suggestions at the right time. So maybe the most obvious example is, if you use Google Now and you commute back and forth from home to your work everyday. After you’ve done that a couple of times Google Now figures out where your office is and it figures out where your home is, so the next time you get up in the morning and you’re going to go to work, it can proactively show you the traffic conditions on your way to work so that you can avoid a traffic jam potentially. So that’s probably one of the first examples of how context can be used to anticipate want you want, specifically cues like location.

What we spend a lot of time here at Expect Labs thinking about is how you can do that around other signals that might be available on your mobile device. Specifically, spending time looking at the idea if you can listen and understand conversations, either text conversations or voice conversations. conversations, can you do a better job anticipating information that people might want? And what we think is going to happen over the next couple years, is these intelligent assistants in some cases will be able to find information that you want even before you finish asking a question, or certainly typing. And in many cases can they even overhear parts of your conversation and automatically get you just the piece of information that you need. So as an example, I think all of us are familiar with using products like Google Suggest. As you start typing characters in a search box, it’ll complete the rest of the characters based on looking at the types of things that people most often type in search boxes. And in many ways that’s kind of magic, and people expect it to exist on every search box, they expect it to be completed without having to type the characters. We believe this exact thing is going to happen in other aspects of life. And it’s certainly going to happen in voice interactions.

So imagine this: You have an intelligent system like Siri or Google Now in the future, and you ask it a question. You say, “did Sandra Bullock get nominated for Academy Award her role in Gravity this year?” If you type that whole thing into a search engine, it’ll probably be able to find the right answer for you, but I believe that these intelligent assistants are going to be so good at it, by the time you just finish asking the first couple words of a sentence, the assistant will already be showing you things that are most likely answers. All you have to do is just say, “Sandra Bullock” and maybe “did she…” and then immediately you’ll see the answer to your question so you don’t even have to finish your sentence. Saves you time, and gives you information faster. It may sound like science fiction but it’s going to start happening in the next year or two. Even better than that, imagine that you’re having an argument with some of your friends, or a conversation with a couple of your friends. You have your smart TV or maybe your iPad sitting on the table next to you. And it’s able to hear some of the things that you’ve been saying. So maybe your friend is saying that Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award and then you’re arguing that it’s absolutely impossible because she hasn’t had good enough roles, or maybe she’s not a good enough actress. If your iPad, or if you’ve allowed it, some application of the future, allowed it to listen to some of these things, it can in theory understand all the things that you’re asking, what you’re talking about, so that as soon as you look down at the iPad it has the answer for you. So you can settle a bet, “oh yeah, Sandra Bullock she won the Academy Award in 2010 for The Blind Side.” This is the future, you’re going to lose a lot of Sandra Bullock bets.

However, these assistants, in some cases, may be able to help you more. Now this may seem a little creepy, having these devices paying attention and listening. All of this stuff needs to happen under the user’s control; it has to done by their choice. Indeed, we’re not very far away from a future where all this technology can probably be self-contained on your mobile device as well. So that intelligent assistant is only a device, it’s your private assistant, that information never goes to the cloud. Think about how great that would be if we had in our device, or in our Glass, or in our watch, this all-knowing intelligent assistant that always is there helping us settle bets without us ever needing to type a search, and in many cases getting that information before we even need to ask for it. That’s the future we’re headed towards and that’s how these systems are going to do a better job anticipating information that we need.

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