MyWave, a New Zealand company founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Geraldine McBride is taking on Google with its virtual assistant dubbed “Frank”. In October, the company — whose board is chaired by Xero chairman Phil Norman — successfully over-subscribed a second round capital raise of $4 million to support rapid offshore growth.
According to McBride, the former CEO and president of software giant SAP, Gartner Group estimates that by next year more than $US2billion of online shopping will be done by mobile personal assistants like Frank.
Naturally, such predictions have not escaped Google’s attention. The company is intent on developing GoogleNow into a personal assistant that knows enough about its users to find information and make recommendations even before they’ve thought to search for help.
Behshad Behzadi (Google’s Technical Lead Manager for Conversational Search) spoke at last week’s Futurapolis conference in Tolouse, telling attendees that “the future of search is to build the ultimate personal assistant”. He outlined the four things Google believes to be key to the future of search:
Voice: Enhancement of voice processing is key to developing a natural back and forth type conversation between humans and computers. In 2013, Google was reporting a one in four error rate in voice search results — that is now down to one in 16.
Context: Another major area of investment is in linking searches to understand what people are trying to find or figure out. Search results may be automatically refined based on your preceding search queries, for instance. Also, on Android phones, Google will scan the contents of apps (or other apps) and find relevant information without your having to copy and paste things between apps to do a search.
Location: Behzadi stated location awareness is growing more and more powerful and will become more proactive in alerting you to things that are nearby that might be of interest.
Personal Information: As Google learns more about you, you get more reminders and suggestions.
Like Google, MyWave’s Frank makes use of the personal information we opt to share, and the more information it has to work with the better its results. Check out the video below for a look at MyWave and “Frank”.
Why should you care?
If the future of search is one where personal assistants monitor our activity, anticipate our wishes and respond to our commands, then we are less likely to search because we will already have been given answers.
In that event, it’s likely that Google’s dominance will start to fragment. Expect to see Google facing off against a range of other companies (including obvious competitors such as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook) as well as startups like MyWave.
As the use of personal digital assistants rise and less search traffic passes directly through Google, there will be disruption in the market. Savvy companies will ensure their digital strategy is not tethered to Google alone, and will look for opportunities in partnering with other technology providers as they emerge.
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