May 09, 2016

Viv is the intelligent interface for everything

Siri co-creators and former Apple employees Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer have demonstrated "Viv," an advanced virtual assistant that could reinvent the way consumers interact with their devices.

Dag Kittlaus just gave us a demo at TechCrunch Disrupt NY that shows off the power of what they’ve built with Viv.

Like with Siri, Viv wants to build a conversational and smart layer that lets you interact with various services. But Viv is taking everything one step further. It’s more personal, it’s more ubiquitous. More importantly, there’s a developer platform to add more services. A demo is worth a thousand words.

The live demo went off without any major glitches despite the laser-focused specificity of the queries all uttered onstage in front of an audience of hundreds.

Kittlaus began with a broad and oft-uttered question regarding what the weather was like today, but then quickly evolved his demands of Viv into ludicrously complex pointed inquiries.

“Will it be warmer than 70-degrees near the Golden gate bridge after 5pm the day after tomorrow?” Kittlaus asked onstage.

What stands as one of the clear strengths and differentiating factors of Viv as a platform is the open-armed welcoming of third-party integrations into the virtual assistant fray. Kittlaus called on Viv to pay a buddy $20 and all that followed was a tap of the pay button through a Venmo integration and, all of a sudden, his friend had been paid.

Indeed, Kittlaus specified that “perfecting the third-party ecosystem” will be critical to the soul of their mission. Kittlaus said that Viv would one day become a “primary source” for users.

A clear strength of the Viv platform was the “stackability” of inquiries. As opposed to short-term-memoried platforms like Siri, Viv was able to embrace follow-up questions without stuttering or gasping for context that was just said seconds before.

Kittlaus detailed the real secret sauce of Viv was something called “dynamic program generation,” which allows the AI-powered assistant to understand intent and generate a program itself to best answer the query.

Traditionally, a virtual assistant would need to have each service, feature, and ability hard-coded, but dynamic program generation has the ability to create custom services in real-time.

"When it understood the intent of the user, it generated this program," Kittlaus explained. "This is software that's writing itself."

In around ten milliseconds Viv can not only pull out the basic building blocks of the request - using Nuance speech-to-text - but create a one-time program based on the core abilities of services like Uber, Venmo, and others.

For instance, there are already routines for parking, finding places to stay, handling recipes, productivity like email and calendar, and entertainment such as wine recommendations. Each can be woven together into an array of Viv abilities, not only on a phone but potentially baked into every connected device in the Internet of Things.

Kittlaus detailed the real secret sauce of Viv was something called “dynamic program generation,” which allows the AI-powered assistant to understand intent and generate a program itself to best answer the query.

“Instead of having to write every code instructed, you’re really just describing what you want it to do,” said Kittlaus. “The whole idea of Viv is that developers can go in and build any experience that they want.”

Viv has advanced parsing of multi-factor requests: you can ask Viv a question about the weather on a certain day in the past, in a certain city, and it'll automatically pull out the various elements of the query to get to the right answer. Follow-up questions are also supported without having to start again from scratch: Kittlaus asked Viv for help buying flowers, then refined the search with "what about tulips?" and the assistant remembered the intended recipient and other details.

Over the next five years smartphones, smart homes and cars and other devices will turn into virtual assistants with supercharged conversational capabilities.

These system will be powered by artificial intelligence and unprecedented volumes of data, they could become the portal through which billions of people connect to every service and business on the Internet. It’s a world in which you can order a taxi, make a restaurant reservation and buy movie tickets in one long unbroken conversation — no more typing, searching or even clicking.

The major difference between Siri and Viv is that the latter is a far more open platform. One of the biggest frustrations with Siri is that it has only a small number of tasks it can complete. For the vast multitude of requests or queries, Siri will default to a generic web search. Viv's approach is much closer to Amazon's Alexa or Facebook's Messenger bots, offering the ability to connect with third-party merchants and vendors so that it can execute on requests to purchase goods or book reservations. The company's tagline — intelligence becomes a utility — nicely sums up its goal of powering the conversational AI inside a multitude of gadgets and digital services.

SOURCES - TechCrunch, The Verge, Washington Post, Youtube, Slashgear, Viv AI

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