When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), there’s a lot of hubris involved on the part of IT vendors. Just about every one of them is assuming that AI is a service that organizations will employ in one way or another to better impact their customers. To that end, most of them, to a degree, are building AI platforms, such as IBM Watson, that get invoked as a service. How these competing AI platforms might actually communicate with each other is a mystery.
This week, however, Asteria started taking pre-orders for a device that flips the AI paradigm on its head. Asteria CEO Dan Gailey says that the Asteria device is an AI companion that provides the end user with a digital assistant that learns the tasks that an end user is trying to regularly accomplish. This makes it possible to use verbal commands to, for example, make a restaurant reservation that automatically makes certain an Uber car service arrives at the appropriate time to take them there.
“We think AI needs to be more focused on what humans actually do every day,” says Gailey.
The Asteria device is similar to other mobile computing devices in that it runs a variant of Linux and includes a camera, microphone and support for geospatial positioning systems (GPS). What’s different is that it makes use of machine learning algorithms to keep track of what backend services an end user regularly invokes. Before too long, Gailey says, Asteria creates an ontology wrapped around a personal virtual digital assistant (VDA). Obviously, VDAs in the form of Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana are nothing new. But in contrast to what Asteria hopes to accomplish, those VDAs are relatively primitive.
Right now, Asteria is only making available its device as part of a software development kit (SDK) for $299 that provides access to its application programming interfaces (APIs). The idea is to start building out an application ecosystem. Of course, one day Asteria may be able to run on any device, but for now at least, Gailey says, Asteria needs control of the actual device.
It remains to be seen whether Asteria can pioneer the development of smart AI companions. Obviously, Apple and Microsoft both probably have something similar in mind for the future. But it’s clear that when it comes to AI, most end users would rather have these kinds of AI capabilities working on their behalf rather than corporate entities that may not always have their best interests in mind or at heart.