However, they soon find out they have neither the time nor stamina for such a feat. Faced with this realization, in 2017 most of them turn to the idea of hiring a virtual assistant to help them out. In most cases, we are talking about a self-employed remote worker who assumes the role of your personal assistant. The advantages of this are numerous. First of all, you save money by not hiring a full-time employee.
Microsoft has been all in on AI this year, and in the build versus buy equation, the company has been leaning heavily toward buying. This morning, the company announced its intent to acquire Xoxco, an Austin-based software developer with a focus on bot design, making it the fourth AI-related company Microsoft has purchased this year. "Today, we are announcing we have signed an agreement to acquire Xoxco, a software product design and development studio known for its conversational AI and bot development capabilities," Lili Cheng, corporate VP for conversational AI at Microsoft wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition. Xoxco, which was founded in 2009 -- long before most of us were thinking about conversational bots -- has raised $1.5 million. It began working on bots in 2013, and is credited with developing the first bot for Slack to help schedule meetings.
In the early days of the Information Age, people who wanted to interact with a computer had to learn to speak its language, like Fortran or BASIC. Today's devices are learning to speak our language -- not perfectly, but well enough to conduct a Google search, schedule an appointment or order a pizza. And smart devices seem to get smarter every day. Does that mean bots with artificial intelligence (AI) will soon replace virtual assistants -- human beings located offsite who provide executive support? We're not there yet, if a recent survey by Creative Strategies is any indication.
Not long ago, a startup founder in San Francisco was trying to organise a meeting with someone visiting from Europe, and setting a time required dozens of e-mails back and forth. The European arrived with a bottle of wine for the founder's personal assistant, Clara, as a gesture of thanks for putting up with the scheduling hassle. But the assistant could not accept the gift. Clara is a software service from a startup of the same name that helps schedule meetings via e-mail. It is powered by artificial intelligence (AI), with some human supervision.
Smart personal assistants are the new weapon of choice of tech giants, but, idyllic as they may sound, they are currently a misnomer. These artificially intelligent assistants might be good at analyzing speech patterns, spoken commands, and connecting to Internet services, but they aren't yet that capable yet when it comes to accurately predicting what we really want, let alone anticipating what we need. But most importantly, these AI lacks a critical element that would make these personal assistants truly relatable, but is also the most difficult human trait to reproduce: emotion. Artificial intelligence has mostly concerned itself with things like machine learning, language processing, and similar "hard" aspects of knowledge formation, and rightly so. These functions and features of human intelligence are more easily quantifiable than emotions.