Virtual assistants: what they are and how they help us

Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Aura, Bixby, Irene and Sara. What do all of these names have in common, other than sounding like women? Are they a collection of scientists and artists who were only called by their proper name? Are they a regional women’s petanque team? An angelic and marvellous choir that is on tour? No! These are the names of the most well-known and admired virtual assistants in technology. Alexa from Amazon, Siri from Apple, Cortana from Windows, Aura from Telefónica, Bixby from Samsung.

What is a virtual assistant?

If we go to Wikipedia, it will tell us that a virtual assistant is a kind of software agent that offers us services and helps us to automate and perform tasks, perhaps with a successful synthetic voice.

The services it offers us will be based on the data we will give it about us, by letting it know our location and postulate it so it can gain access to information online, where almost all your power and skill lies.

The technological combo that makes the virtual assistant possible is a combination of the current boom of mobile devices, programming interfaces and the rise of mobile applications.

Like almost everything pragmatic in this world, this type of magic arose for military use, but it is already sneaking into our homes thanks to the power of marketing and the perseverance of companies.

Currently virtual assistants can not only be configured with the user’s voice; we can also interact with them in writing or through images. Which opens up a world of possibilities for us.

Thanks to its recent expansion we can find these virtual assistants in all kinds of objects and surroundings: speakers with a pretentious art deco finish, apps, smartphones, watches, electrical appliances, cars and operating systems everywhere.

What are virtual assistants dedicated to?

But then, what do these elves, who speak to us from junk, do for us? How do they help us in our daily routine? Well, they won’t help you mow the orchard, but apart from that in almost everything. They turn on appliances from distance, order a taxi without having to raise your hand or whistle down the street, they magically make a motorcyclist deliver you Chinese food at home and know your household. And, if you want to, they simply serve to give you all the information you need with a good robofriendly diction. They read the news to you like a butler, tell you the upcoming weather outside like the brightest grandmother meteorologists and estimate the traffic in your area so you don’t get unnecessarily angry in front of the horn.

There are also virtual assistants who DJ or schedule movies and series on your TV or even read you an audiobook to go to sleep. Just ask, politely or not, and the virtual assistant will do its utmost to make you happy.

Virtual assistants like Siri give you the possibility to send messages by WhatsApp, schedule your alarm in the local time in which you need it and create a reminder so that you do not forget the birthday of your partner, the trip to the dentist or that important meeting in which you will be placed at the top of the company. And if you’re lazy they also regulate the brightness of the screen and turn off Wifi so that no one contacts you. The capabilities of a virtual assistant are numerous, but you have to discover them step by step. However, they will help you save effort and treasure your precious time in all aspects of your daily life.

Virtual assistants: data

As we move forward today, these virtual assistants are becoming more and more present in our daily lives. We are increasingly using them more, or so says a recent study by Gartner, an information technology research consultancy based in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. According to his studies, taking his own country as a standard, virtual assistants are already used by 42% of the population in the US. In the UK,by around 32%. More than a third of this workforce uses, more than once a day, this technology.

Of them all, the vast majority, about 54%, uses Siri. But hey, with the new additions to the word of the virtual assistant sooner or later someone will start to opt for others.

According to Gartner, on a global scale, by 2019, 49% of the population was using virtual assistants hassle-free. Perhaps some will go further and establish a love affair with her as happens in the movie Her (Spike Jonze – 2013).

According to a report by Socratic Technologies, a consultancy dedicated to research, people see different qualities in them when it comes to using them. In one of their polls, in the United States, 59% of the respondents used assistants to give greater comfort to their daily lives and 40% say they use it simply to not be staring at the screen all day.

But there are still bright people in this world, people who see the cons hidden in the midst of so much profit. These people dislike the way virtual assistants violate their privacy, and point to it as one of the most hateful points. Many other users say that the virtual assistants make life less personal, colder, barely human.

Monitoring of virtual assistants

Is it possible to monitor virtual assistants? What the hell is virtual assistant monitoring? Excellent questions for a monitoring blog like this. For now, it’s quite likely that it is possible. It all depends on how our virtual assistant is programmed, being particularly important the permissions to access the information it contains. But of course certain aspects could be monitored as long as a monitoring agent can be installed. For non-local monitoring, it could be done without any problem, as it may be to know if our virtual assistant is turned on or not. But it’s still a dimension to be discovered.

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