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Finger to voice

“Is it going to rain in tomorrow?” We have asked this question to people around us for a long time. But did you know that your smartphone can also understand you and has been able to answer you loudly for several years now? Inspired by major science fiction films, our small pocket companions are becoming, with each new upgrade, genuine assistants. Together, let’s take a look at the fascinating world of artificial intelligence.

When a little gadget…

Like many technological developments, voice assistants have been designed in response to a simple observation: the growing adoption of touchscreens has given rise to increasingly intuitive interactions, even if this means neglecting certain uses. In fact, many users quickly felt the need to take control of their device even when they were on the move ‒ on a bike or skateboard for instance.

Google, Apple and Microsoft have quickly given their operating systems a soul, with Now, Siri and Cortana respectively users can choose their voice intonation and they can then respond to specific voice commands: send a text message, search the web or find the nearest pharmacy.

Adam Cheyer, co-creator of Siri, admires the way that artificial intelligence has been integrated into iOS: “Most of the ideas and technologies behind conversational assistants have in fact existed for several decades, but for me, the real breakthrough with Siri was that we found a way to integrate these technologies, make them easy enough and intuitive to use for users as much as developers”.

Today, Android, iOS and Windows Phone are able to answer their masters’ main requests, based on a clearly defined series of questions and terms. But could we take this even further? Could we design software that becomes slightly more intelligent each time we use it?

Presentation of Viv by its creator Dag Kittlaus.

…triggers an artificial intelligence war

According to the analyst Thomas Husson “these tools will soon be able to provide predictive services at home, in the car…”. We are not there yet of course, but several firms are looking to revolutionize this market.

The most impressive include the challenger Viv, thought up by the creators of Siri. Viv, based on a prototype presented just a few weeks ago, is able to connect to a number of third-party applications, sites and services to respond to far more complex requests. For instance, it will soon be possible to order a taxi or make a bank transfer without using your hands, just your voice, in record time. An outstanding development.

Alongside this, the giant Amazon has developed Alexa Voice Service, another voice synthesis tool rolled out for the first time in the Echo connected speakers.

Unlike its peers, Alexa Voice Service is not designed to stay cooped up inside this speaker. Amazon is already making this technology’s core available to developers so they can come up with new features and even future connected devices.

During this period, Apple has adopted a similar attitude, inaugurating Siri on its Mac OS computers and submitting it to app designers. An encouraging sign of openness for the future. This is the start of a new age: this surprising technology definitely has a lot more to say.

“Like in science fiction films, our small pocket companions are becoming genuine assistants.”