The Future of Virtual Assistants: From Siri to AI-powered Chatbots

The virtual assistants we all know and love today, such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, have become household names. However, when compared to the latest AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT and Google Bard, these virtual assistants seem less impressive. The recent boom in generative AI technology holds great promise for the evolution of virtual assistants. Once integrated with the capabilities of legacy assistant bots, the future of virtual assistants looks incredibly exciting. To catch a glimpse of what lies ahead, I decided to put an experimental AI voice helper called vimGPT to the test.

As I put vimGPT to the test, I was pleasantly surprised by its impressive skills. When I asked it to subscribe to WIRED, it showcased its capabilities by effortlessly finding the correct web page and accessing the online form. Had I provided my credit card details, I am confident that vimGPT would have successfully completed the subscription process. While this task may appear mundane for a human, purchasing something online requires navigating through complexities that go beyond the usual repertoire of Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. From understanding the request to finding the right website and interacting with complex forms, the process demands advanced capabilities.

vimGPT is an experimental AI voice helper that utilizes Google’s open-source browser Chromium, ensuring user data remains secure. My further experiments confirmed that while vimGPT excels at searching for amusing cat videos or finding affordable flights, it does lack one crucial component – a credit card. Nevertheless, this experimental tool built by Ishan Shah, a dedicated developer, paves the way for potential advancements in virtual assistant technology. It is highly likely that major players like Apple, Google, and others are conducting similar experiments to enhance the capabilities of their virtual assistants.

vimGPT is powered by GPT-4V, which stands as OpenAI’s renowned language model’s multimodal version. By analyzing user requests, it can determine the appropriate actions with greater accuracy compared to text-only software reliant on deciphering messy HTML. Shah, the mastermind behind vimGPT, built this experimental tool in a mere few days. Looking ahead, Shah predicts that the computing experience will undergo significant transformations within a year. The integration of chat-based interactions and virtual assistants into web browsing is expected to become increasingly prevalent.

Agents that Get Things Done

Shah’s vision aligns with that of Ruslan Salakhutdinov, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and former director of AI research at Apple. Salakhutdinov believes that virtual assistants like Siri are poised for a substantial AI upgrade. According to him, the logical evolution involves agents capable of accomplishing useful tasks. While connecting Siri to powerful AI technology like ChatGPT would undoubtedly be beneficial, the true impact will materialize when virtual assistants become problem solvers, effortlessly resolving user issues.

Salakhutdinov and his students have developed a range of simulated environments designed to test and refine the abilities of AI agents. These environments include a dummy e-commerce website, a Reddit-like message board, and a classified ads website. Collectively known as VisualWebArena, these virtual testing grounds enable researchers to put AI agents through rigorous exercises, pushing the boundaries of their capabilities.

The future of virtual assistants holds tremendous potential. From the impressive capabilities of AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT to the experimental advancements showcased by vimGPT, the trajectory for virtual assistant technology is exhilarating. As developers and researchers continue to explore the possibilities of generative AI, we can anticipate virtual assistants that seamlessly navigate the web, completing complex tasks on behalf of users. While the road ahead may be challenging, the ultimate goal of creating virtual assistants that can genuinely get things done seems ever closer.


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