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We need virtual assistants that talk to each other

Mike Elgan | June 12, 2017
'Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana and Alexa — figure out a solution and get back to me.'

Virtual assistants should work initially like apps, then later not at all like apps. At first individual users should find, and in some cases pay for or subscribe to, specific virtual assistant services such as a meeting scheduler or a flight-booking add-ons.

Once installed, however, the user of those services should be the virtual assistant, not the human.

It should be possible, in fact, to install or subscribe to several flight-booking add-ons. Later, when you want to fly somewhere, you should tell your assistant, "book me a flight to Chicago next Wednesday," and the assistant itself should query all the add-ons to arrive at the best price or best combination of cost, travel time, flight schedule, airline carrier and other factors.

Although this general approach is obvious, it's not obvious that current virtual assistant artificial intelligence is up to the job yet. We may have to wait a few years.

But when it does arrive, we'll find ourselves in Mortensen's BYOA world, where employees will choose the vertical assistants or assistant plug-ins. Employees will choose them, but the assistants will use them.


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