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virtual assistant(1) An individual who performs administrative functions for clients. See human virtual assistant.
(2) An application that lets people ask questions by speaking in their natural language and listening to verbal answers. Although virtual assistants are in tablets and desktop computers, they caused the smartphone to become an incredibly useful electronic companion. No matter where people are, they can ask about anything that is public knowledge and get an answer.
Also called a "personal assistant," "digital assistant," "intelligent agent" and "voice assistant," Apple's Siri popularized the concept in 2011. Siri was followed by Google Now/Google Assistant in Android and Chrome devices, Cortana in Windows, Alexa in Amazon's Echo and Facebook M. The Viv platform was created to revolutionize this technology (see Viv). See Siri, Google Now, Google Assistant, Cortana, Amazon Echo and Facebook M.
Virtual assistants cannot only answer questions, they can make phone calls, calendar appointments and reminders and set alarms. The more information kept in the phone, the more personalized the results. Virtual assistants are the first embodiment of artificial intelligence used on a daily basis by hundreds of millions of people (see AI). Virtual assistants are increasingly called "chatbots" (see chatbot).
Heavy Lifting in the Cloud
The virtual assistant is driven by one or more semantic knowledge bases on the Internet as well as the data in the user's device. Over time, the virtual assistant becomes more tailored to the individual. See knowledge base, Semantic Web, AI and S Voice.