Apple’s Siri creators debut Viv, a AI driven personal assistant cum butler

Siri co-founder and CEO Dag Kittlaus took the stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference here to demonstrate his latest creation. In a world-first, the public got the first look of Viv, the artificial intelligence-powered digital assistant that aims to lap rivals with its understanding of human conversation. Viv aims to go beyond and take on Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and the voice inside Google.

The goal is to “open up the ecosystem where this world of assistants that we’re used to today that have several dozen capabilities now has an opportunity to explode to hundreds of thousands and tens of thousands of times the number of capabilities that some of today’s assistants have,” he said in an interview after leaving the TC Disrupt stage.

“We think the key to that is having a third party platform where anyone can add to the experience.”

Kittlaus believes that AI today is in a similar stage to where his old employer at Apple was when it first launched the App Store.

His new still developing assistant will grow up in all kinds of devices, “eventually.” He says Viv Labs has been approached by major car companies, consumer electronics, car and Internet companies. “We have no shortage of distribution opportunities and that’s really the next step…We have more interest in what we’re doing than we can possibly handle. We’re booked and ready to go.”

Currently, Viv is an iOS app, though it won’t always be. You open the app and ask the assistant questions or issue commands. These can range from queries like want to order flowers for mom or Need to book a hotel? Viv can take care of that by allowing developers (say, from 1-800-Flowers or Hotels.com) to integrate their services directly into Viv. Users should finally be able to search for what they need and then purchase it — all using voice commands.

Viv will be able to answer sophisticated questions like, “Will it be warmer than 70 degrees near the Golden Gate Bridge after 5 p.m. the day after tomorrow?” an example that Kittlaus gave onstage. He noted that Viv’s audible voice is still being perfected.

It’ll also allow for follow-up questions. Say you asked it to order flowers — but then realized mom only likes tulips Viv can narrow down search results and then complete the order.

The Verge reports:

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.

Kittlaus feels Viv is well placed to win the bot race when it comes to utility and ease.

“You really just want one assistant,” he added. “Our goal for this is ubiquity, we’re going to follow the path that gets us to ubiquity,”

Kittlaus, who sold Siri to Apple in 2010, noted that Viv Labs has already turned down acquisition offers.

He said Viv will have a “rolling launch” toward the end of 2016 and will slowly open up to developers.

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