IBM IS BRINGING its Watson artificial intelligence (AI) tech to cars, homes and more as it looks to challenge Google, Apple and Amazon with its own voice-controlled assistant.
Big Blue's Watson Assistant, formerly known as Watson Conversation, makes use of the natural language processing the AI tech is known for, allowing users to bark questions and commands at any gadget with the tech baked into it, which the Watson-powered tech will then figure out and act upon.
Working with automotive and home audio specialist Haman, IBM has show-off an early integration of the Watson Assistant in a swanky Maserati concept car but has kept quiet on what exactly it can do.
But IBM wants to see the Watson Assistant squeezed into other devices and plans to take Watson beyond the business world and specialist use cases.
To do this, the Watson Assistant is being offered as a customisable virtual assistant that developers can easily integrate into their gadgets and software through the use of APIs and a user-friendly interface.
You might wonder why developers would opt for the Watson Assistant over the Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa, which are both more established in the consumer world, but Big Blue is promising more levels of customisation and privacy its rival's assistants.
Rather than being activated by an 'OK, Watson' style command, IBM is allowing developers to add custom voice activation commands and triggers, as well as to train the assistant on their own datasets. This could mean that future smart assistants you might encounter while poking around in a friend's smart fridge/toaster/bidet might seem like the latest AI from say Bosch but actually uses Watson tech at its core.
Each integration of the Watson Assistant also keeps the data it gathers and uses separate from other uses of the tech, meaning Watson data is not pooled. This may mean that the Watson Assistant can't share its smarts with other integrations, but companies and users of the assistant can feel safe that their data is being kept private and not shared with Google, Amazon or a third-party, anonymously or otherwise.
"Data ownership, a critical factor in the future of AI, and with Watson Assistant, IBM does not and will not own the consumer data via Watson Assistant. Any data captured through conversations, texts and videos is contained within the brand to better serve its customers," said Big Blue.
Below the surface, the Watson Assistant is arguably offering nothing particularly new from IBM's AI division. It's been made from features found in the Watson Virtual Agent and Watson Conversation, and the tech has been seen in action in devices like SoftBank's hackable Pepper robot.
So there's nothing to suggest that the Watson Assistant will offer end-users anything that stands out from Alexa or the Google Assistant in real-world use; perhaps slightly better language recognition will be on offer. But for developers, it offers the chance to create a branded and more tightly-controlled voice assistant.
And for us, dear readers, we can expect a heck of a lot more devices coming with voice controls and smart assistants, whether needed or not. µ
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