7 Technologies that Act as your Virtual Assistant
From busy moms to top-level executives, everyone has at one point or another said they wished they had an assistant (if they don’t already have one that is). A good assistant can be an invaluable and even sanity-saving asset when you have a lot going on. But sometimes hiring an assistant isn’t the right choice for you
. So while there isn’t (yet) a comprehensive, all-in-one technology that can fully replace an assistant, there are countless technologies available that when pieced together can act as your own virtual assistant. Here are 7 of those technologies that cover some of the most common tasks completed by assistants.
Voice-first devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home have jumped in popularity the past couple of years and that trend is expected to continue. In fact, according to the 2017 Voice Report by VoiceLabs, it is expected that approximately 24.5 millions of these devices will be shipped in 2017 - up from the 6.5 million that were shipped in 2016.
Currently, most people use these devices to play music or audiobooks, but new skills are constantly being added. Already these devices can tell you the weather forecast, keep a shopping list for you, help you make purchases, or serve as an alarm/timer. It is expected that the skills will grow more and more complex with different devices becoming specialized in different areas. For example, it is expected that Google is going to specialize in providing knowledge, home automation, and integrating with your email and calendar while Amazon will specialize in commerce and home automation.
The brilliance of a smartwatch (or other smart wearables) is that it’s basically a virtual assistant that’s always with you. You literally have information constantly at your fingertips. Whether you’re an Apple or an Android person, smartwatches come equipped with features ranging from text notifications to an integrated assistant.
And if you like the convenience of a smartwatch but you like the aesthetics of a traditional watch (or you just don’t like advertising to everyone you’re always reachable), companies like Fossil and Withings offer lines of hybrid smartwatches. Essentially these are traditional-style watches with additional technology integrated. For example, your hybrid smartwatch may vibrate and subtly flash a specified color to let you know your best friend is calling.
Google Alerts, or other similar services, are an easy way to stay constantly up to date on any topic you’d like. Simply follow a few quick setup steps and you will be immediately notified of any new information posted about your company or you can even use them to find coupons and deals. It’s a nice service that you can set and then forget.
Reminder (and More) Apps
One of the nicest things about having an assistant is having someone to remind you about all the things you’d otherwise probably forget. Whether it’s an upcoming meeting or a colleague’s birthday, having reminders setup allows you forget about these things until you need to remember them, which in turn allows you to focus more of your attention on the present.
As already mentioned, most smart technologies have reminders built into them, but there are also apps available to further customize your experience. 24me, for example, is advertised as a “personal assistant in your pocket.” This app, which does integrate with smartwatches, will connect your calendar, bank, to do lists, social networks, etc. to help you stayed organized and on track.
Travel arrangements are one of the things that takes the most time to do thoroughly. Of course anyone can go online and book a flight, but how do you know that it’s the cheapest flight, or that you’re visiting your destination at a good time of year, or that your destination is near the beach without spending hours researching?
Travel assistant chatboxes are tools that have been growing in popularity recently. These AI-powered bots, like Hipmunk’s Hello Hipmunk, will answer questions like “what’s the cheapest flight from MCO to JFK in October?”. And they’ll do all this via Facebook Messenger, email, or even Slack.
With ever-changing schedules and the oftentimes constant back and forth, scheduling is another time consuming task where a good assistant really comes in handy. Fortunately, there are also several great scheduling tools that’ll act as your virtual assistant.
Assistant.to integrates with your Gmail (and eventually Outlook) and will allow people to click a date/time option based on what is on your calendar and an invite is automatically sent. Or, if you’re trying to coordinate night out with a bunch of people, you can use a service like Rally that allows people to vote on the dates and times that work best for them.
Shopping SubscriptionsMaking purchases is another task commonly delegated to an assistant and another great example of something the right technology can do for you. From clothing to baby toys and dinner, there are subscriptions for just about everything, and it can be a lot of fun trying them all out. Who doesn’t love getting boxes of goodies delivered to their door? And of course they can also be very helpful and time saving. For example, Amazon offers subscriptions on many of their products. This can help you save money but it also will help ensure that you don’t run out of basics like toilet paper and toothpaste.