What Are the Benefits of Using Virtual Assistants in Business?

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Thirty per cent of searches are expected to be screenless by 2020. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) develops, organisations are changing the way they work.

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Growth of AI

Once just names, Cortana and Alexa today embody virtual or intelligent assistants that you talk to, along with Siri, Samsung Bixby, Google Assistant and IBM Watson.

Using voice commands, these ‘virtual butlers’ can do anything from making lists to scheduling appointments, ordering taxis, activating smart devices and opening software.

The head of data science at data and marketing services firm Profusion, Henrik Nordmark comments that we’ve barely started to unlock AI capabilities. He says that as AI progresses, these assistants will be able to manage complex requests, guess what their owners want and fully integrate with smart devices.

X.ai – a personal assistant called Amy Ingram – is a computer program designed to arrange meetings. It is so realistic that some customers have sent it flowers.

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The professor of practice in Warwick Business School’s information systems and management group, Mark Skilton, heralds a ‘virtual workforce’. He says that many small business tasks, such as processing claims and customer support, are already undertaken in this way.

He points out that having the in-house talent to use this technology is a challenge, but that’s altering fast as commodity systems develop that may be plugged into your website and tailored to particular uses.

For virtual PA services, visit firms such as https://www.mushroombiz.co.uk/homepage/services/virtual-pa/.

Here’s how to set up a virtual assistant for your home business: https://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2013/nov/25/virtual-assistant-small-business.

The Future

Natural language processing (NLP) is key to the development of virtual assistants. It is a variety of techniques that enable computer programs to synthesise and analyse spoken language. We can talk more and more easily with technology as NLP develops.

Using NLP and clients’ analytic tools, scientists have built experimental prototypes of computers which can answer questions such as ‘How many people visited my website last Monday?’. In future they may harmonise with digital assistants like Google Home and Alexa.

Likely to appear soon are personal digital assistants using hearable technology like the Sony Xperia Ear and shared devices on work desks – like an Amazon Echo plugged into the company. The ability for virtual assistants to do manual or creative tasks is just a bit further away.

 

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