Exciting news came out recently, with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd (KRX:005930) announcing their new virtual digital assistant. Named “Bixby”, Samsung describes it as the “new intelligent interface” on all their devices. This marks the first time ever that Samsung has officially entered the market for AI (Artifical Intelligence) powered digital assistants.
The industry for AI based virtual assistance is in a flux right now. There are many big players who are entering the field and scrambling for market share. Most importantly, everybody is constantly looking to innovate to keep their own digital assistance service relevant.
The State of the AI-powered Digital Assistant Industry
With so many behemoths of the tech world committing heavily to the creation of a truly functional AI assistant, it would seem that most believe that digital assistants are the next big thing. Samsung’s Bixby is only the latest big entry in the market, adding to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Assistant.
The numbers seem to back up these companies’ faith in the potential for AI virtual assistance. According to a report by Research and Markets, the user base of consumer VDA (Virtual Digital Assistants) will grow from 390 million in 2016 to 1.8 billion by the end of 2021. This represents a growth of 361.54% in just over 6 years. Meanwhile, enterprise VDA users will grow from 155 million users to 843 million in the same time period.
Moreover, the revenue growth projections are even more lucrative. The report forecasts growth in VDA revenue from $1.6 billion in 2015 to $15.8 billion in 2021. This is a jaw dropping 887.5% growth in a period of 6 years!
The enormous potential of this type of technology is obvious. However, it remains to be seen who will take the best advantage of it.
The Parameters For Success
With increasing competition in the VDA marketplace, success is not guaranteed for anyone. While everyone wants to achieve a similar end goal, they are going about it in various different ways. Ultimately, these strategies and the manner of their execution will decide who will prevail. The conversation can be found to be centred upon the following major points:
Openness and Third Party Development – One of the biggest factors affecting most VDAs is their development model. The stark differences are especially obvious if we compare Siri and Alexa, two of the most popular VDAs currently. Amazon has opted for a more open source approach for Alexa, enlisting the aid of third party developers. This is done via the concept of “skills”, which are basically applications that enable specific functionality in Alexa. Needless to say, this allows Alexa much greater functionality across a wider spectrum.
On the other hand, Apple completely controls development and the flow of information in the case of Siri. This means that Siri has a very limited skillset compared to Alexa. However, the upside to this is that with strict control limits, the chance of unexpected interactions is greatly reduced. This provides for a more polished end user experience.
Google are also working on plans to involve third-party developers in the development of Google Assistant in a limited capacity using tools such as API.AI. Microsoft have outlined plans for a “proactive skill” based system, which would draw on existing their existing skills from Alexa.
Product Design and Humanization of AI – The technology powering VDAs are still in its infancy. We have found that most universal solutions are susceptible to a multitude of bugs, errors or misinformation. By narrowing the range of functions performed by a particular device, we can greatly improve the quality of the user experience. This amply demonstrated by the success of the Amazon Echo dot, which performs its admittedly limited functionality in a more satisfactory fashion. This segmentation of responsibility can help VDAs provide a more targeted and functional service. Notable examples of these are home automation, and sous vide tools which employ integrated VDAs.
Another vital factor I success could be the “humanization” of AI. Most AI machines of today seem very alien and robotic, with only rudimentary attempts to make them appear human. Making machines more adept at human interaction and encouraging natural conversation could be key for widescale adoption of VDAs.
Personalization and Customization – Learning more about the user and human mind, in general, can help expand and improve VDA functionality immeasurably. The quality of information will be greatly improved, with the ability to proved customised information tailored to the needs of specific users. This sort of artificial “memory” can also help reduce the frequency of redundant command requests. Whichever VDAs can provide a better-personalised experience are on a sure path to success.
However, this has given rise to a lot of privacy concerns from users, and it is imperative that companies be mindful of privacy and information abuse to ensure consumer goodwill.
- Samsung announces their new digital assistant, “Bixby” which will provide competition to Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assitant and Apple Siri.
- The market for Virtual Digital Assistants is a potential goldmine, with a potential yearly revenue of $15.8 billion by 2021.
- The consumer user-base for VDAs is also rapidly expanding, with the number of unique users to rise to 1.8 billion by 2021.
- Personalization, third party development and “humanization” of AI are key factors in the success of VDAs.