The Age of Personal Assistants: More Machine Learning, Less Hand-Crafting!

Updated: Jul 10, 2018

Personal assistants such as Alexa and Siri are everywhere, but have trouble handling any tasks more complex than setting an alarm or playing songs on Spotify. PolyAI is a new London-based startup with a next generation platform for building voice-based agents. We use machine learning to handle complex tasks across different application domains, in a wide array of world languages.


Author: Nikola Mrkšić, CEO & Co-founder at PolyAI


The first phone call was placed on March 10, 1876. Graham Bell shouted at his assistant: “Mr Watson, come here — I want to see you!” This was a game changer. For the first time in history, we had real-time remote communication, and with it, the ability to remotely automate all kinds of services. In his case, Mr Bell could ask his assistant to run errands without ever seeing him in person. Of course, Mr Bell could have sent a letter, telegram or a pigeon, but this would not have been as fast or convenient as picking up his phone — it wouldn’t have been real time!

The first real-time remote service automation tool


Over time, one could dial an increasing number of businesses and procure services remotely and in real time. However, there was no easy way to discover these services. The solution came with the Yellow Pages: large print directories listing local businesses and their phone numbers.


After a long wait, the World Wide Web moved the service directory away from dusty Yellow Pages into sleek and minimalist search engines. Users could read the latest news, order books, or even check the balance of their bank account without waiting for the phone operator on the other end of the line. However, websites forced users into structured interaction with backend systems, forcing companies to spend millions on user interface design to hook users to their service. Since there were no uniform design standards, users had to adapt to a different interface for each service, instead of using their voice alone.