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Nuance muscles into virtual assistant space

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Nuance has made a move to capitalise on the software and data chaos, introducing its own cognitive arbitrator, which will act as a digital task master.

The idea is relatively simple. With the digital world moving ever quicker from touch user interface to voice activated software, more organizations are bringing out their own virtual assistants to work on specific products. This can mean the user will have to summon several different assistants to accomplish a series of tasks, while simultaneously remembering the controls specific to each. Nuance is proposing a cognitive arbitrator, streamlining all the controls and actions into one place.

“By 2020, there will be 26 billion intelligent, capable, connected devices armed with conversational virtual assistants that manage nearly every possible consumer experience,” said Kenneth Harper, VP of Emerging Solutions at Nuance. “These assistants all have strengths and specialties, but today, they rarely communicate with each other or work together across devices – and it’s the consumer who loses out.

“The introduction of Nuance’s cognitive arbitrator functionality solves this challenge, maximising our customers’ ability to provide their own unique and differentiated experiences to end users, while also offering interoperability to the world of other assistants that deliver useful services. It’s a win-win for everyone in the ecosystem, especially the humans that buy and use our customers’ products and services.”

It does seem like a sensible idea, which has already proven to work in the world of eCommerce. It isn’t necessarily a direct comparison, but an interesting link. First you had hotels listing rooms for reduced rates on their own websites, which was then superseded by websites like Booking.com. All of the hotels in a certain area were collected together, so the user can achieve his/her aims in one sitting. As mentioned before, not directly comparable, but similar.

In theory, the Nuance system should be able to listen to the commands of the user, whether it would be directions for driving, music selection or adding toothpaste to the shopping list, before pushing out the commands to the relevant system.

Should Nuance be able to create a dominant position on top of the pile, develop enough partnerships with the industry, it could prove to be a very interesting niche for the business. That said, it will soon have to tackle Google and Amazon.

These are the two dominant virtual assistants in the market, produced by two of the major cloud innovators in the industry. There is no reason why they shouldn’t sit at the top of the pile and have everything else plug into them. Almost every organization will want to partner with one or both of these players. It is perfectly believable that many other virtual assistants will be designed to be compatible with these two.

Another assumption from the Nuance team is that the interaction between these assistants will remain fragmented. Work from the open source community, or from international associations, could well steer developers towards standardization and interoperability. But while the virtual assistants are continuing to speak different languages, it is a decent idea to create a new link on the value chain.

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