Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Current State of Personal Assistant Software

Earlier, I had discussed some features in personal assistant software. What is the current state of the art for this category of software? The truth is that no single application covers all of these features. What you see today are applications that cover one or two of these features.

The most popular example of a software agent is Siri. Did you know that there are other examples too? Google alerts qualifies as a software agent in that you express a search wish and this app emails you whenever it finds what you are looking for.

Siri is also the leader when it comes to human interface factors but it wasn't the first. Mac OS X spotlight is one of the first examples that brought this type of feature to the mainstream. Ubuntu has also adopted this approach over menus with the Head Up Display part of its Unity interface.

Typically, it is web franchises that have gone to market with multiple platforms. Zoosk is a good example of this with first class, native versions of their web app that run on iPhone, iOS, Android, Windows, and Macintosh desktops.

Facebook and Google are the leaders when it comes to big data. There is a growing number of open source big data technologies that will make big data affordable for just about any start up or SMB. Hadoop is clearly the winner in this category with vendors such as Cloudera and Hortonworks. Solr/Lucene is more known for its search capabilities but should also be considered as a NoSql solution for big data requirements.

Google and Facebook also do a great job when it comes to real-time communications. Google talk is the most visible example of this. There are some mature open source technologies that bring real-time communications capabilities to start ups and SMB too. ejabberd, Tigase, and Open Fire are the three most notable examples of this.

What lies ahead are when these feature sets converge. Those apps don't exist yet but there are some early adopters that are worth keeping your eyes on. Opportunity Eye is an initiative that promises to explore what it would be like to have a full featured personal assistant that combines features from each of these categories.

How much synergy can be discovered with personal assistants that combine elements from software agents, human interface factors, multiple platforms, big data, and real-time communications? Let's find out.

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