Microsoft’s virtual personal assistant demo. Now, she takes your calls. Later, she takes over the world.

iRobot NS-5First they take your calls, then they take your bag, then they take over the world. At the annual Microsoft CEO Summit in Redmond on Wednesday, Microsoft showcased what they thought was an innocent virtual office-lady. Little did they know, she would be a threat to humanity. The Microsoft conference center was filled with some of the most powerful and profited people in the United States, so Microsoft had to show them the latest toys to make their job even easier earning more money.

As Dan Richman described briefly, one of those toys is a conceptual “virtual personal assistant” designed to send shivers through every receptionist across the globe. Not only can machines transfer your call now, it can identify people, understand natural language and even take action depending on the contents of your call, for example, making an appointment. During the keynote, Paul Duffy gave this demonstration of Bill Gates’ virtual assistant.

This is an impressive piece of technology combining many emerging technologies such as speech recognition, natural language processing and cross-platform interfaces (phone-to-PC). I don’t know how much of the female voice or responses were scripted, but it sounds like a product worth realizing. But the first problem that came to my mind was how is a computer suppose to identify who is who. Can’t I say I’m “Paul Duffy” too?

However, the strangest thing would have to be saying “goodbye” to a computer that you know does not care. But I guess if you don’t, they’ll come back to haunt you when they take over the planet. 😉

8 insightful thoughts

  1. I think the switchboard part is what MS has been using for awhile now already. I don’t know about the appointment making part though.

    Why can’t you lie to a real receptionist?

  2. There was this guy, Mark Stephen Meadows, the other day at our school and he talked about avatars and virtual intelligence and his company. Quite a nice lecture it was.

    Basically he talked about having one or more avatars that are by learning from you and your behaviour act like you in situation that you put them in. For instance write a letter, answer the phone, make an appointment (just what this demo from MS shows) and much more.

    You can check their demo here: http://www.headcaselabs.com/demos_video.php

  3. My query is how well does it recognise different accents on the same language (ie: us Aussies still speak english, but in a significantly different accent to Americans)

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  5. Where can we get this and how much is it??????? Ive tried to find it for hours. I cant believe this came in in 2007! Where the heck have I been?

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