Our goal here at Mycroft is simple to state but difficult to execute. We are building an artificial intelligence that runs anywhere and interacts exactly like a person. Our goal is to deploy an assistant that interacts so naturally that users who encounter it can’t tell if they are talking to a human or a machine.
When we first started building the Mycroft voice assistant – before Google Home and before Amazon Echo exited private beta – we got a lot of weird looks when we brought this up. For most people our mission statement was unbelievable. Computers that interact naturally were, to them, a distant fantasy of science fiction authors and fanboys.
Yesterday Google proved us right. It is possible with today’s technology to produce a voice experience so natural that humans cannot tell that they are talking to a machine. Though the interactions in Google’s example were very narrow – making appointments and asking for business hours – Google’s Duplex demo was the first public example of a voice assistant that sounds completely natural.
I’d like to say congratulations to the Google team. This is a giant step forward for our industry.
Google proved it is possible and now that investors, customers, and users know it is possible they will demand it.
Google’s success means that the race is on and right now Mycroft is the open source community’s best bet. To be relevant in a future defined by voice our community needs to improve underlying technologies – Precise ( wakeword spotting), DeepSpeech ( speech to text ), Adapt ( natural language understanding ), Mycroft Core ( action engine ) and Mimic ( speech synthesis ). Then we need to broaden the domains in which a voice assistant can operate. That means expanding the library of available skills and developing natural dialog.
Today voice assistants can make appointments and check business hours, tomorrow they will provide legal advice, solve customer service problems and teach our children.
With all of those applications in mind, it is important that we embrace both privacy and user agency. Ask yourself: when your personal voice agent makes an appointment on your behalf, do you want to visit the doctor that is right for you? Or would you rather see the doctor that paid Google to be first on the list?
This technology is important to the future. It is important to Big Tech, but it will eventually be important to educators, legal advisors, medical caregivers, customer service organizations, news providers and countless others. Let’s make sure everyone from Fortune 25 conglomerates, to mom and pop small businesses, to individual users has access to this important, world-changing technology.
Thank you Google and congratulations on your significant achievement.
Mycroft’s First Officer, a serial entrepreneur and Air Force Officer, Joshua brings more than 15 years of leadership experience to the Mycroft team. He is a strong supporter of the open ethos, net neutrality and consumer privacy. Joshua lives in Holualoa, Hawaii with his wife and co-founder Kris Adair.