Bots and virtual assistants are here to help us with everyday tasks, but because they are scattered across networks and devices, their usefulness remains limited. Now a new product from the developers behind Apple’s Siri is looking to connect them and create the world’s first virtual assistant marketplace. Meet Viv.
In Viv’s first live demo Monday, founder and CEO Dag Kittlaus demonstrated Viv working across the apps of its “friends” at Weather Underground, Venmo, ProFlowers, Hotels.com and Uber while onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, the annual tech conference, held this year in Brooklyn.
“I just did four transactions in about two minutes, by talking,” Kittlaus said simply after completing the demo. “What I just showed you is a small slice of where we see it headed. For developers, this is going to be the next big marketplace, the marketplace that works with the next generation of devices.”
The artificial intelligence technology works across apps to provide a Siri-like experience to any request. The team is also working to create the most intelligent assistant, challenging it with complex phrases.
For instance, Kittlaus tested the query “Will it be warmer than 70 over the Golden Gate Bridge after 5 p.m. the day after tomorrow?” to the Weather Underground app. The response was, “No, it won’t be that warm Wednesday after 5 p.m.,” with a list of the expected weather conditions.
Next he told Viv: “Send Adam 20 bucks for the drinks last night,” which opened up the Venmo app and sent the exact amount to the right Adam in his contact list.
Completing a booking at Hotels.com took less than 30 seconds. “Has anyone ever seen hotel booking that’s that simple before?” Kittlaus asked the audience.
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The system is currently available only to a select set of developers, such as those shown in the demonstration. Viv plans to introduce a wider launch at the end of the year. “The whole idea is, developers can go in and build anything they want,” Kittlaus said.
It’s a similar goal except more ubiquitous than Facebook, which launched a bot store last month during its F8 developers conference. Companies like 1-800-Flowers and CNN are using it to communicate with customers and readers through Facebook’s Messenger.
“To order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again,” Mark Zuckerberg said during his presentation of the system.
Facebook and Google reportedly made offers to buy the Viv technology.
But Viv is about voice and expands beyond much more than Facebook and Messenger. Kittlaus showed he barely had to type anything into his phone and clicked only a few buttons. That could be bad news for Google and other search-driven businesses. Kittlaus cautioned against being wary of such a drastic shift.
“I think our kids will go on asking, 'How did you get around without your assistant?' Same thing with my kids asking how I didn’t have a computer in college,” he said. “No, I don’t think search is going to disappear, but I think the rise of the assistant is inevitable.”