Alexa? Siri? Who are these people?

Jan 5, 2017 by Edward L. Blach, DVM, MS, MBA

Who is Alexa?  And who is Siri?  We hear about these characters, and we see people (maybe some of us do this as well) talking to electronic boxes or speakers, and they talk back to us.  Some of these conversations are frustrating, some are funny, and some are helpful.  What are they, and what purpose do they serve?

Alexa and Siri, and others are what are called intelligent assistants.  Yes, there is a position description for them and they even have their own conference, called the Intelligent Assistants Conference, in San Francisco.  Stop for a minute and imagine what that looks like.  How would Alexa and Siri be dressed?  How would you recognize them?  

Another name for these assistants is 'metabot'.  Are these a fad or is there a purpose for them to which we should pay attention?  

Alexa and Siri, and their counterparts (there are many) are changing the customer interface.  Think about how you might use Alexa.  Alexa is part of Amazon's Echo product.  It might consist of a bluetooth speaker that you can use to play music from your iPhone without wires.  It also listens to you.  When activated, usually by a key word or phrase, such as "Alexa", you speak to it, and it provides answers.  For example, while you're doing something else such as suturing the final skin layer on a routine spay or finishing a castration on a young colt.  Your hands are busy, and you simply say, "Alexa, what was the score to the Denver Broncos football game last night?"  And Alexa would promptly provide you the answer.  You might say that this interaction has no importance and shouldn't be part of any surgical procedure.  I would argue that your passions should be part of every procedure you do.  But, what is you had a question relevant to how your proceed in the procedure you're conducting.  What if you needed to advise your surgical assistant about post-op care, but you wanted to check the medical history to ensure there were no medical allergies that might affect which antibiotic to prescribe.  Is this possible, today?  No. But it will be soon.

All of our information, medical records, scientific literature, government archives, and related metadata will eventually be accessible via voice-activated, hands-free methodology for your immediate access and use.  Whether you're in surgery, driving your car, or sitting by the fire enjoying your favorite beverage, you will have immediate access and use of much more information than ever before.  Just like the internet itself gave us fingertip access to the world, Alexa, Siri, and their relatives, will give us hands-free access to all of that information as well.

It will change the way customers expect to obtain products and services.  We talk about a drive-up window, 'now' mentality.  We will no longer have to go to the drive-up window.  

Alexa and Siri, and their relatives are here to stay, and they will transform customer expectations.

You need to be logged in to write a comment.