Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Contributed articles

Skill Discovery in Virtual Assistants


virtual assistant and app icons, illustration

Credit: And4Me

Virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri employ conversational experiences and language-understanding technologies to help users accomplish a range of tasks, from reminder creation to home automation. Voice is the primary means of engagement, and voice-activated assistants are growing in popularity; estimates as of June 2017 put the number of monthly active users of voice-based assistant devices in the U.S. at 36 million.a Many are "headless" devices that lack displays. Smart speakers (such as Amazon Echo and Google Home) are among the most popular devices in this category. Speakers are tethered to one location, but there are other settings where voice-activated assistants can be helpful, including automobiles (such as for suggesting convenient locations to help with pending tasks5) and personal audio (such as for providing private notifications and suggestions18).

Back to Top

Key Insights

ins01.gif

Virtual assistant capabilities are commonly called "skills." Skill functionality ranges from basic (such as timers, jokes, and reminders) to more advanced (such as music playback, calendar management, and home automation). Assistant skillsets include both first-party skills and third-party skills. First-party skills comprise the aforementioned basic skill functionality found in many assistants, as well as skills that leverage assistant providers' strengths in such areas as electronic commerce (Amazon Alexa), productivity (Microsoft Cortana), and search (Google Assistant). All major assistants also provide development kits that empower third-party developers to create their own skills for inclusion. Skills can be invoked independently, linked together within a single voice command to invoke a preprogrammed routine, or in a sequence of related skills arranged as required for complex task completion. Despite the significant value virtual assistants can offer, discovery of their capabilities remains a challenge.


 

No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.
  

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.
Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account