What Is a Digital Assistant?
A digital assistant is an advanced computer program that simulates a conversation with the people who use it, usually over the internet.
Digital assistants use advanced artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing, natural language understanding, and machine learning to learn as they go and provide a personalized, conversational experience. Combining historical information such as purchase preferences, home ownership, location, family size, and so on, algorithms can create data models that identify patterns of behavior and then refine those patterns as data is added. By learning a user’s history, preferences, and other information, digital assistants can answer complex questions, provide recommendations, make predictions, and even initiate conversations.
These digital assistants are sometimes considered to be predictive chatbots.
How do Digital Assistants Work?
Digital assistants are passive listening devices that respond once they recognize a command or greeting (such as "Hey Siri"). Passive listening means the device always hears what's happening around it, which raises privacy concerns. These concerns have been highlighted by smart devices serving as witnesses to crimes.
The digital assistant must be connected to the internet so it can conduct web searches and find answers or communicate with other smart devices. However, since they are passive listening devices, they usually need a wake word or command to activate.
When you communicate with a digital assistant by voice, you trigger the assistant and ask your question without pausing. For example, "Hey Siri, what was the score of the Eagle's game?" If the digital assistant doesn't understand your command or can't find an answer, it will let you know. You can try again by rephrasing your question or speaking louder or slower. In some cases, there may be some back and forth, like if you ask for an Uber. You might have to provide additional information about your location or destination.
Not every digital assistant will have the same capabilities. Your digital assistant could pull data from a wide range of sources and put that data into context. Advanced natural language processing (NLP) capabilites enable digital assistants to process what you are saying or typing, while advanced natural language understanding (NLU) capabilities enable it to parse what you say or type and proceed to generate accurate answers. The NLU makes it possible to understand complex sentences and separate the various pieces within a multipart request or question in order to return an accurate answer.
More advanced digital assistants can even process multiple tasks and complex questions, enabling them to converse with users in a way that is easy to understand. These advanced virtual digital assistants make use of AI and machine learning to understnad your and your preferences to a greater extent. Essentially, an AI digital assistant could use data about your historical interactions with the digital assistant and your preferences to make predictions of your behavior and make recommendations, thus tailoring and personalizing your experience.
What are the Benefits of Today’s Digital Assistants?
For individuals, digital assistants bring convenience—and a dose of fun—into homes, cars, and other locations. When used for certain purposes, such as to manage home heating and home security, they can also save people money and free them from tedious tasks.
Businesses are also finding many benefits to using digital assistants, especially to improve efficiency and provide better assistance to their employees and customers. By using digital assistants, a business can:
1. Offer more services
Businesses can provide more services to their employees and customers by using chatbots to handle the more routine help desk or customer service requests.
2. Save money
Digital assistants allow businesses to connect with customers and employees in a personal way without the time and expense of live representatives. By taking care of redundant tasks or shortening the time it takes to perform essential tasks, digital assistants free staff to perform more mission-critical work.
3. Provide better service
Customers and employees appreciate having natural conversations on convenient messaging apps as well as receiving fast and accurate responses to their questions.
Avoid mistakes. Digital assistants can anticipate upcoming events and issue reminders—for example, letting users know that they need to submit a form or that the deadline is coming up for a report.
4. Scale at will
By implementing a digital assistant, a business can provide humanlike, personalized, proactive service to millions of people at the same time—and scale up or down at will.
Learn as they go. Digital assistants gather real-time insights, which businesses can use to continually improve the user experience and learn about their customers and employees.
How are digital assistants different from chatbots?
Chatbots are essentially computer programs that have the ability to simulate and process written or spoken human conversation in a way that enables people to interact with digital devices as if they were communicating with a real person. A digital assistant takes that further.
Digital assistants could essentially be considered to be chatbots of a more advanced type. Like the chatbots that you’d be able to build on the Engati platform, digital assistants are able to handle far more complex interactions in a conversational format. Let’s take a basic example. When you’re interacting with a basic chatbot, you’d have to give very specific instructions to the bot in order for it to carry out a task. But with a digital assistant, you could say something like, “Order my usual from Alfredo’s at 1:00pm” to place your lunch order. The digital assistant would be able to pull context from past conversations as well as data from other systems that it is integrated with in order to place your lunch order.
Basicially, what you need to keep in mind is that all digital assistants are chatbots, but not all chatbots are digital assistants.