What are Virtual Assistants?


As voice recognition and gesture-based technologies advance and more recently, converge, we are quickly moving away from the notion of interacting with our devices via a pointer and keyboard. Virtual assistants are a credible extension of work being done with natural user interfaces (NUIs), and the first examples are already in the marketplace. The concept builds on developments in interfaces across the spectrum of engineering, computer science, and biometrics.

The Apple iPhone’s Siri and Android's Jellybean are recent mobile-based examples, and allow users to control all the functions of the phone, participate in lifelike conversations with the virtual assistant, and more. A new class of smart televisions are among the first devices to make comprehensive use of the idea. While crude versions of virtual assistants have been around for some time, we have yet to achieve the level of interactivity seen in Apple's classic video, Knowledge Navigator. Virtual assistants of that caliber and their applications for learning are clearly in the long-term horizon, but the potential of the technology to add substance to informal modes of learning is compelling.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - chris.bell chris.bell Nov 10, 2015 Not sure if technology is ready for this. That being said I have been testing Speech to Text programs for students who need support in the classroom (scribe or otherwise). In my opinion the new add-ons for Google Docs (Speech to Text) out preform the current industry programs for this purpose. First it is free to everyone, easier to setup and finally does take the 'Training time' as the typical programs do. Being in Google's domain means they already have a large market and this could easily be the model that gains traction with individual where this type of speech to text program has fallen down with average users in the past.
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • - chris.bell chris.bell Nov 10, 2015 Wouldn't it be nice to stop typing? OR better yet to not buy that add on Keyboard for your iPad or Surface?
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • - chris.bell chris.bell Nov 10, 2015Not yet just personal testing at this point.
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