“Everybody and their mother is out to create their own specialized voice-activated devices,” IBM fellow and CTO for its Watson project Rob High told me during an interview at MWC. IBM, of course, doesn’t offer a direct competitor to Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa, but the company hopes that developers will choose Watson, in all its various guises, to power their AI apps, smart chatbots and similar services.
High was not very positive about the current generation of chatbots and virtual agents but he believes that IBM may have the technology to push this far enough so that its users can get more utility out of them. “Classic mobile applications, web applications, IVRs — all those channels are prone to getting advantage to having a virtual agent that has more depth to conduct a conversation than you classically see with Siri or early version Alexa chatbots,” he said. “I don’t even know why they call them chatbots. It’s really command-and-response or single-utterance interactions.”