Voice-activated AI assistants like Siri, the Amazon Alexa and the Google Home have become parts of our lives in minor ways, whether it's asking Google to settle a dinner table debate or asking Siri to tell you what song is playing at the restaurant. While small uses for these AI assistants have become a near-daily norm, Dag Kittlaus, co-founder and CEO of Siri, has a vision for the future of the in-home AI that goes beyond simple tasks.
Last week in an “ask me anything” thread on Twitter, Kittlaus answered questions about his hindsights on Siri, which new technologies get him excited, and where he sees the in-home AI going. For many users, AI assistants are already a helpful part of everyday life. But Kittlaus sees their practical uses broadening in the future through the integration of specific use cases.
I think NL has stagnated a bit in terms of exponential advancement but will still prove extremely useful with custom applications.— Dag Kittlaus (@Dagk) August 5, 2020
Responding to a question about whether AI assistant technology has a future, Kittlaus said the current state of the technology has been somewhat stagnant, but he feels there are paths forward through “custom applications." In other words: voice assistants can already schedule things, make purchases, and handle some appliances - but they will eventually be able to do more, and perform actions that access multiple applications or services at once.
Kittlaus identified these features as ones he wishes Siri had launched. Specifically, he said he wanted it to be easier for third parties to access Siri’s capabilities. It wasn't too long ago that you couldn’t get Siri to play a song on Spotify or other third party music apps. While that functionality now exists, Kittlaus is likely talking about a scenario that would allow apps to access and pair with Siri independently.
Open third-party ecosystem enabling AI “App Store”, proactive actions based on user personalization knowledge, personality & celebrity voice user options, instant-pairing with in-home systems.— Dag Kittlaus (@Dagk) August 5, 2020
As for cross-application uses, imagine a scenario where you give your assistant a command that would require it to access two services at once. Maybe you ask your Google Home to find the cheapest listing for a specific pair of shoes across Amazon and Nike and to purchase it. Kittlaus sees the technology moving in a direction that would support such scenarios, making it a much more valuable and convenient tool for everyday life.
One primary assistant directing a growing multitude of connected capabilities. Multiple voice id’s to derive whom is speaking in a family of 6-8.— Dag Kittlaus (@Dagk) August 5, 2020
Kittlaus also says he sees the technology moving in a more personalized direction. At present, the Amazon Alexa allows users to create “voice profiles,” which helps it identify users and provide them personalized results, like asking it to read your email or update your personal calendar without having to specify which member of the household you are. Kittlaus sees that capability expanding to be able to differentiate between a greater number of users. And with his prediction that cross-application uses will grow, it’s easy to see a scenario where voice profiles could also immediately log you into your accounts with various services.
While these advancements that Kittlaus foresees have obvious practical uses, there are, of course, security concerns that come along with them. What if voice profiles mistake you for someone else and allow you to make purchases on someone else’s accounts? Can you trust big tech with ever-increasingly personal information? Will companies even come together to support cross-platform uses to begin with? While the use of personal AI assistants may have stagnated for the time being, there are clearly many directions in which the technology could grow, and many questions to go along with that growth. As for which voice assistant he would rather be stranded on an island with? Kittlaus went with old faithful.
My gal Siri. And her sarcastic alter-ego Harry Sadler.— Dag Kittlaus (@Dagk) August 5, 2020