July 2019

VOICE-BASED VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS HAVE COME CALLING!

RAJNIKANT RAO

Gone are the days when we said, "Lets Google it". The millennials say, "Hey Google!" or "Alexa!" or "Hey Siri!"

 

Havenít we seen ads of Alexa and Google Home on local TV where songs are played, or the latest news is delivered, or informative general knowledge is easily dispensed just for the asking? Such devices are getting immensely popular and changing the fabric of how home entertainment works.

 

So, how do they work? Essentially, these virtual assistant devices have a mic (thatís short for microphone!) and a speaker. They have the circuitry to connect them to a WiFi. Therefore, when you ask a question, itís captured by the mic and sent via WiFi to the respective server where the request is processed. The response from the server is sent back to the device from where the content is delivered via the speakers. This content may be a piece of information or a song. Today, you can ask via these devices to cast a YouTube video on to your TV or even play a Netflix film!

 

Now, voice-based virtual assistants are available on the phone, too. No more clumsy typing or even tapping on the screen. Just ask what you want the phone to do. This is the future of interaction on the phone. The creators of these technologies initially provided a simple way to get routine mobile tasks done via voice. These included: "Set an Alarm...", or "Call...", or "Send text to...". But that was a few years ago. Later, they added more capability like playing songs and so on. Today, almost any information that is available in the public domain is accessible via voice. Such apps are available on both iPhone as well as Android phone.

 

Another popular term is "chatbots". This usually refers to the virtual assistants that are available online. Customer support is the most popular application on websites that gets millions of support requests on a daily basis. Such requests are usually typed on a chat window on the website and are processed by a virtual assistant at the backend. Usually, chatbots are not voice-enabled.

 

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