Say hello to the newest intelligent agent, IBM’s Watson Assistant
This white-labeled incarnation of the Watson supercomputer is designed to learn what makes its users happy.
Among intelligent agents, there is now another new best friend: IBM’s Watson Assistant.
The tech giant introduced this smart voice- and text-enabled enterprise assistant on Tuesday at its Think 2018 conference in Las Vegas, wrapping the previous Watson Virtual Agent into this new release.
But the company is pointing to a few differences from Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, the Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and the others in that crowd.
First of all, the Assistant will be white-labeled, meaning that you won’t be saying, “OK, Watson.”
At launch, IBM pointed to partnerships with car systems vendor Harman for integration into the digital dashboard of a Maserati GranCabrio. Other integrations are underway by wireless products provider Airwire, Munich Airport, set-top box maker KAON Media, the Royal Bank of Scotland and workflow automator IFTTT. Here’s a visualization of Watson Assistant employed within a smart house agent called I-VIE, from UK-based Chameleon Technology:
Second, the new Assistant is built around Watson. Siri and the others are not exactly slouches, but they didn’t win Jeopardy against human champions, either. IBM is touting Watson’s ability to learn about its owners’ preferences, including “what makes them happy.” Get ready for the happiness wars between intelligent agents.
Additionally, the Assistant is tuned to specific industries, initially for the automotive and hospitality sectors. Versions optimized for retail, banking and other verticals are also in the works.
“Alexa is just starting to integrate into more business settings, and it will most likely be a while before it learns to adapt to multiple industries,” Juan José López Murphy, technical director of IT and software development firm Globant, told me via email.
On the other hand, he added, “Assistant is already primed for use across varying people, organizations, locations and devices. This creates a more streamlined and holistic experience for users right out of the gate.”
Just as Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana are colonizing every device they can, so is Watson Assistant. Here’s IBM’s vision of how that might work:
You’re on a business trip to Las Vegas. Upon landing at McCarran International Airport, Watson Assistant automatically checks into your hotel and your preferred rental car is not only ready, it has the hotel destination preprogrammed along with suggestions on where to get a latte while en-route. Nearing the hotel, the Watson Assistant in your car signals your arrival to the hotel and not only updates the room with your preferences for music, temperature and lighting, it synchs your smartphone, calendar and email with the in-room wall dashboard and checking you into the convention you’re attending.
Next, after skipping the long lines of the front desk, you use an electronic key on your phone to enter, ask Watson Assistant to check your messages and within minutes, you’re ready to begin the afternoon meetings.
Finally, there’s the issue of privacy. IBM says each version of Assistant will use and learn from its siloed data, which will be owned by the Assistant-using partner company.
In other words, the company is saying, there isn’t a pending issue about whether this agent will know your purchase history on Amazon or your life’s particulars across Google+ and Gmail, as certain other agents might.