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Section 2 / Page 56

A virtual assistant is a concept, where all of a users personal data would be held online. All of the data the user would normally have stored in their mobile phone, PDA's, home PC, laptop etc, all that personal data or any data that the end user required could then have been accessed via any net appliance the user may have been using.

A personal virtual assistant was to have been something as simple as an online voice or a 3D representation of an assistant, e.g. the user could have an online V.A. (virtual assistant) call their mobile or even their home phone to remind them of appointments etc. The assistant was to have been voice activated from any phone and could, by using text to speech technology, read out to any appointments or e-mails, but more than that, the V.A. could have acted in an intelligent way, if the proposed A.I. system had been developed.

Here's the link because Microdollar told youtube to take the video off?

The V.A. was to have been a very intuitive and personalised interface, with a completely customised user front-end, i.e. how the V.A. looked and sounded. A natural progression from the customised homepage, The V.A. was seen as being an online memory store for each users information, with each user having the ability to access that store from any net device they had. This was to have been augmented by having that information cross referenced and sorted by an A.I. program, acting in much the same way as a secretary or personal assistant does at present.

If the A.I. system had been developed, then the V.A. was to have allowed the user to have what would at least appear to be, a normal conversation. Thus allowing the user to talk to their V.A. in much the same way, as they would with any real personal assistant. As the video above shows, this is now becoming a real technical possibility in the real world. As new real time voice translation software, see NLP and VXML matures, then these types of systems will change the world of business and eventually the rest of us.

I believe virtual assistants will become a great new tool for the public, the V.A. was seen as being able to take dictation from any device capable of doing so, (game consoles, mobile phones, laptops etc), whilst also being able to send and receive e-mails, vid mail or almost any digital information, in a way which would be much easier for the general public to understand, than it currently is.

Big companies and most people who are involved in I.T. seem to forget on a regular basis just how difficult computer technology is to use. There are huge sections of the public that still have no idea how to use a computer or how to do the simplest of tasks within Windows. The interfaces between the public and I.T. equipment must be made easier to use if the largest possible markets are to be tapped. Both my parents, have never even touched a computer and have virtually no understanding of technology, this is not abnormal, this is actually the norm for a large percentage of the worlds population.

The whole point of the V.A. project, was to give the public an interface they could all easily use, like an online personal friend or completely personalised information guide. The masses should find it much easier to interact with a computer, if they stop thinking of it as a computer and start seeing it as another person, but for now you may just wish to go and buy yourself a virtual girlfriend?

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Author Alan Keeling