There’s already plenty of competition in the world of virtual assistants — Apple has Siri, Google has Google Assistant, Amazon has Alexa, and Microsoft has Cortana, to name some of the biggest players. Now another heavyweight is preparing to enter the fray.
IBM has officially introduced Watson Assistant, its own take on the burgeoning field of voice-activated virtual assistants. But where other big companies aim to brand their virtual assistants and make them as ubiquitous as possible — especially on their own company’s devices — IBM is taking a much different approach.
In fact, if IBM’s virtual assistant catches on as the company hopes, you might use Watson Assistant in a number of different products in your own life without even knowing it. IBM is positioning Watson Assistant as a behind-the-scenes sort of assistant. Any company will be able to brand their own version of Watson Assistant, naming it anything they want, and allow it to use only its own relevant data. As The Verge points out, “each integration of Watson Assistant keep its data to itself, meaning big tech companies aren’t pooling information on users’ activities across multiple domains.”
IBM has secured a number of partnerships for Watson Assistant, which is already in use at Munich airport, CNET reports. The virtual assistant is powering a robot which offers directions and gate information to travelers. BMW is developing an in-car voice assistant using the Watson Assistant tech, as well.
IBM is still seeking out partnerships, and the company believes it has an advantage among certain business customers. Bret Greenstein, IBM’s global vice president for IoT products, told CNET that business customers are asking for Watson Assistant, and that its functions and features should be appealing to companies with sensitive information. The company has also introduced its Watson Data Kits today, which aim to “accelerate enterprise AI adoption.”
It’s clear that Greenstein and IBM have concerns about the omnipresence of certain virtual assistants — like Alexa — and Watson Assistant would offset that. “The idea that one assistant will rule your life,” Greenstein said to CNET, “is kind of frightening.”