Will 2017 Be the Year of the ‘Virtual Assistant’? Competition Heats up Among Leading Smartphone Manufacturers

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As we progress into 2017 and the years beyond, smartphone manufacturers are increasingly waking up to the sobering fact that in an ever-competitive, and ever-evolving marketplace, no longer is it just the physical features of a device that make it great — but also the software advancements to the underlying user experience, and the fluidity thereof, that will keep loyal customers coming back with each successive release.

One of the key, software-based areas in which we’ve seen an uptick in developments lately is in the ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) space, where a number of the world’s leading device manufacturers have invested heavily in an effort to create an AI-based virtual assistant that’s capable of “outsmarting all the rest.”

Apple and Google, in particular, have already been paving the path forward when it comes to their work on Siri and Google Assistant, and while each is certainly not without its hiccups and flaws, Siri has shown a great amount of promise when it comes to offering users a more natural, conversational-type response to inquiries.

Yet even as Apple and Google continue to refine and perfect their already top-notch platforms, other device manufactures — including the likes of HTC, Nokia, Samsung, and more — have decided to dive headlong into their own attempts to create viable AI-based assistants. HTC, when it unveiled its upcoming U Ultra and U Play handsets earlier this month, at the same time unveiled its forthcoming “AI assistant,” known as HTC Sense Companion, which according to PhoneArena, will supposedly offer some pretty basic voice recognition functionality.

For example, Sense Companion will be able to respond to inquiries using data like frequently used apps or contacts, as well as issue traffic and travel notifications based on your pre-existing calendar events. Not exactly a “game-changing” platform, suffice it to say, but there’s always a room to grow, right?

Samsung and Nokia, likewise, are also working on their own AI-based virtual assistants, known as ‘Bixby’ and ‘Viki’, respectively. As for Samsung, ‘Bixby’ is rumored to take the unique new form of a ‘visual search’ assistant, which will be able to analyze your photos and provide additional details about the objects pictured within them. Bixby is slated to be revealed next month alongside Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S8 flagship. So while the details are scarce right now, we should definitely know more about what ‘Bixby’ will be able to do at that time. Similarly, Nokia is reportedly experimenting with a home-brewed AI-based assistant of its own, named ‘Viki’; however there is little to no substantial information regarding Viki available yet.

Reports have also surfaced indicating that Amazon’s Echo-only ‘Alexa’ voice assistant platform will be coming to a myriad of U.S.-destined Android handsets, including offerings from Huawei; which may be a blow to Google, seeing as how the breadth of Android-powered handsets have historically relied on Google’s proprietary virtual assistant platform.

So the competition is fierce, and increasingly so, as manufacturers work to deliver devices that not only please customers with their physical bells-and-whistles, but also offer the most robust and helpful UI advancements. With that said, 2017 is shaping up to be an innovative and ultimately monumental year for AI-based virtual assistants.

Featured Image: MKBHD
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