Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Siri Creators Debut Viv

Caitlin McGarry, Macworld:

Right now, Viv is an iOS app, though it won’t always be. You open the app and ask the assistant questions or issue commands. These can range from basic queries like what the weather forecast looks like, which Viv quickly answers with Weather Underground data, or as complex as, “Send Adam $20 for last night,” and Venmo handles the transaction. You don’t have to have these apps installed for Viv to work on your behalf. […]

While most voice assistants or bots have to be programmed with preselected responses to specific queries and pull from one domain at a time, Viv’s software figures out the intent of your question and writes itself. In response to a question like, “Will it be warmer than 70 degrees at the Golden Gate Bridge after 5 p.m. the day after tomorrow?” Viv write a 44-point program to answer with Weather Underground data, but it can combine data from several different sources to respond to a question in seconds.

Last week, Elizabeth Dwoskin of the Washington Post got an early preview of Viv:

The two [founders Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer] faced a similar choice six years ago, when Jobs offered to buy their little-known app and distribute it to millions of people. Jobs took them to his home in Palo Alto, and the group talked for three hours by the fireplace. They left his home convinced that they shared a vision. It didn’t turn out quite that way.

Today Kittlaus and Cheyer find themselves in a similar position: Do they sell to a giant or go at it alone?

If this works even half as well in real life as it does in this demo, that’s going to set a very high benchmark for other companies’ virtual assistants. But, if Viv remains a third-party app, there’s no way it will have meaningful usage when compared to first-party assistants like Google Now and Siri.

According to Dwoskin’s article, Google has already made an acquisition offer. If Apple’s not trying to get Siri to these levels on their own, they’d be foolish not to at least try to woo Viv.

Update: Apple just happened to debut a Siri-focused ad today, which opens with Neil Patrick Harris requesting that Siri read him a note in a particularly stilted voice, and closes with Harris saying “I’ll be a lot more natural”. Make of that what you will.