Google Assistant Takes Planning to the Next Level

As one of the technological leaders in the world, keeping an eye on Google’s developments is always interesting, especially with new technology such as the new Google Assistant.

We’ve just become used to the idea of having a home assistance that allows us to control our home automation system with easy and without ever having to press a button. Simply say “Ok Google” and tell the assistant to turn off lights, play something on the connected stereo or even find a movie you’d like to want.

Well, now the company introduces the next level of Google Assistant that has the ability to make calls for you and set appointments. It can even find information for you by calling a store and asking them questions without them ever knowing they are actually talking to an artificial caller.

Why Google Assistant is So Great

As demonstrated by Google, you can use the assistant to do just about everything, and it would take care of it without you even knowing. As in their example, you can ask the assistant to make a hair appointment for you for a specific time and date.

The assistant would then call the salon and talk to the person who answers the phone on the other side. It would automatically communicate with the person at the salon and find out what times are available for the appointment. Depending on what the person at the store says, the assistant would suggest things like other times or what would possibly work best.

In the example, the person at the salon said they can assist as 1:15, to which the assistant asked for anything between 10 and 12. The person at the salon had a look and confirmed it’s possible to set an appointment at 10. The assistant agreed and confirmed it.

With all this going on in the background, you would never know about it. Once the assistant completed the appointment, you’ll simply receive a notification on our phone telling you that the appointment is set for this date at that time.

Why Don’t People Know it’s AI?

Google has certainly taken their technology to a whole new level when it comes to how well the AI voice responds and communicates with the person on the other side of the phone.

The hair appointment demonstration stated with the person at the salon asking how they can help, to which the AI voiced said they want to book an appointment for a client on the 3rd of May. It even includes other forms of verbal communication, including making sounds like “umm” and “mm’hmm”, making it extremely realistic.

After asking about the time, the person at the salon asked what type of service her client is looking for, and the AI voice managed to respond perfectly by telling the salon that it’s just a hair-cut for now. It even managed to make the booking under the person’s name, making it easy and effortless for users after the appointment is made.

Millions Unfamiliar with the Internet in Pakistan

In General, Pakistan is one of the countries that have always remained a bit behind when it comes to technology when compared to others. The internet came much later, and even today the infrastructure is far below average.

69% of Pakistanis Have No Idea What the About the Internet

It is a common fact that Pakistan was one of the latecomers in internet technology and even today the infrastructure in Pakistan is far below average and most of the Pakistanis that are interested in the internet experience low speeds. While the internet speeds are extremely low, it is not surprising that the most recent report revealed that 69% or all Pakistanis aged 15 right up to 65 have no idea what internet is. The report is based on the information gathered via a survey conducted by ICT.

More Information Needed to Understand Access & Usage Gaps

The survey based on around two-thousand Pakistani households was conducted by the think-tank of communications and information technology, LirneAsia, based in Sri Lanka. Helani Galpya, the CEO of LinreAsia said that the active number of cellular subscribers of 152 million listed on the website of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority reveals nothing about the actual subscribers, despite the good system for SIM registration. It does not indicate whether the subscribers are male or female, poor or rich and it does not offer the information needed to understand the usage gaps or access.

Only 30% of Pakistan Population Knows How to Use the Internet

The report analysed the internet problems faced by several Asian countries as well as the lack of development needed to tackle this problem hands on. Currently, only around 30% of the Pakistani population between the ages of 15 up to 65 are aware of the internet and how to actually use it. The main reason for this extremely low percentage is the complete lack of awareness.

The report did highlight a variety of contributing factors as indicated below:

The first was the fact that Pakistan had the lowest urban to rural gap among citizens using the internet which was 13%. When Pakistan was compared to Bangladeshi, Pakistan had the lowest percentage of 43% when it came to the likeliness of women to use the internet over men, Bangladeshi 62% women and Indian 57%.

Quite a high 49% said the main reason why they did not use the internet was its relevance, while over 18% felt that the cost of the internet was just too high, while around 22% said there was no limitation on internet use. The report also revealed that one of the main reasons for not using the internet was the unavailability of smartphones. Most just never had internet capabilities on their mobile phones, and with this, it was emphasised by Helani Galpaya, that it is time to put smartphones in the hands of people and remove the basic phones. Still, Pakistan had some good news from all this, and that is that amongst Asian countries it had the highest percentage of people owning a mobile phone, which was 57%.

Internet Connected Robots Provide Kids Companionship

Robots that are connected to the internet and proving to be helpful with children who are kept home due to extended illness or those that face life-threatening illnesses that prevent them from going to school.

Studies have shown they have helped those young, and even seniors, to remain connected to the outside world. It allows them to share experiences with friends and family preventing a feeling of being isolated.

One of those impacted by having one is 16 years old Zoe Johnson. At the age of 12, she was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, which is also called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is an illness that is debilitating and affects the immune and nervous system. As a result, Johnson was absent from school far more than she was attending. That saw her friendships with those at school disappear over time as she was too sick to spend time with friends.

Recently, she got an AV1 telepresence” robot that has allowed her to begin taking classes with those she use to attend school with. The robot is manufactured by a start-up company No Isolation and allowed her to sit in a virtual classroom by live streaming classes via a tablet. It allows her to participate by speaking through the robot and control where the robot is looking.

The robot is designed so that when Zoe has a question, it will alert the teacher using a blinking red light. If she is sick, she has the ability to turn on a blue light so as to alert the teacher she is resting ore unable to participate in class. Johnson says that it has increased the excitement she feels in her daily life, and she feels as if she no longer is forgotten. As a result of acquiring the robot, Johnson was able to take exams this year.

The co-founder of No Isolation, Karen Dolva, developed the idea based on feedback a nursing friend provided her. Dolva’s friend worked in a ward with children who were hospitalised for extended periods and the misery they felt in so far as isolation and the inability to have a resemblance of normalcy.

The led Dolva and several friends with backgrounds in technology and engineering to visit the children and talk to them in so far as what they would want to have in a personal robot. What was determined was that the typical smartphone app were not enough and that more was needed.

They wanted to be able to see what was taking place in the classroom but not be on a display where others could see them in hospital. They also wanted the ability to hear all that was taking place in the classroom as well.

Growing segment in the market

This is an area that unfortunately is growing. While most deadly diseases and illness are not treatable, many still remain untreatable through conventional medicine. In the sixties, less than 2% of children had a health-related illness that kept them from school, today, that number has grown to over 8%. As a result, the use of telepresence robots is seeing growth by the likes of No Isolation and others such as Double Robotics and Giraff Technologies. While these are incredibly beneficial, they cost several thousand dollars, the AVI, for example, runs close to $2500usd but can be rented for around $200 a month.

Intellectual Property On Technology

Laws regarding patents have not kept up with the context of the new technologies which emerge and as they mature, become legal hunting grounds where companies battle with lawyers and scientists who speak a cryptic form of the English language.

I for one am not sure what this specific Samsung/Apple argument means in plain English. What I do know is that (innovative technology aside) Apple is often an arrogant and assuming company that is more used to dictating to others (both consumers who purchase their products and their competition) than it is accustomed to being admonished by the same courts it uses to intimidate competitors.

So Apple finally loses a court case because this time, those murky patent laws don’t hold up for them. Although Apple’s technology is often top notch (and comparatively pricey), the one thing Apple has yet to learn is humility. Then again, remember the real history of Mr. Jobs who got ‘lucky’ decades ago when he got a preview of PARC technologies, which Xerox did not at that time fully comprehend. No, he didn’t steal technology, but he did get a peek up Xerox’s skirt and the seed of an idea followed which became the Apple most of us know today. Let’s not forget the ‘gift’ those fickle Finns gave Jobs and Apple when Nokia failed to advance the smart phone technology they developed years before Jobs and his folks figured smart phones out.

So the business world is a mixture of innovation, intelligence, determination, chutzpah, and luck. Jobs and Apple were always heavy on the ‘smart’ part of the story, but they arrogantly down play the luck part of the equation and never learned humility. This time a court spanks Apple for misbehavior and Apple doesn’t like it. Tough luck.

This case was essentially moot before it was decided. Maybe Apple needs 3 to 6 more months (until they introduce the models 2 to 3 generations ahead of the ones disputed in this case) until they stop production of the iPhone 4. I don’t think they produce any of the other models in question anymore. I think they get 60 or 90 days without an appeal; maybe they’ll appeal to create a safety cushion. But put aside that this is Apple and Samsung, or whether the idea of rounded corners on a rectangle is patent-able. Just imagine the scenario:

Company X sues Company Y for patent infringement. Company X wins the case, meaning Company Y stole their IP. But by the time the case is settled, the technology is no longer in use. So Company Y was allowed to steal Company X’s technology for nothing but the cost of IP lawyers who were good at delaying the process. If the legal system can’t keep up with technology, then it is failing miserably. And it is failing miserably, both in the timing as described, and in it’s inability to clearly define IP and patents.

About the author: Zohaib is former CEO of Nadia Textiles and currently a franchisee for Pearl Continental Catering in Lahore and investor-founder of several B-corporations, notably Uth Oye.