The BBC features Flybits and Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone

“With massive amounts of cash being pumped into development by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and context-aware startups such as Flybits, the PA in everybody’s pocket could soon be a reality,” Nick Clayton wrote in BBC Capital about virtual personal assistants (Siri, Cortana, Alexa, etc.).

Rahnama.Ryerson

Hossein Rahnama

Flybits was founded by Hossein Rahnama, Research and Innovation Director at Ryerson University Digital Media Zone in partnership with MaRS Innovation. Flybits is a software solution that makes it simple to personalize an app’s behaviour. Digital marketers can use this information to then change the app’s behaviour and content without coding.

The full piece, “Eight ways virtual personal assistants could work for you,” is available on the BBCs‘ website. Here is an excerpt:

While these functions are very useful they hardly reveal a technology that’s about to challenge a real human PA. So what’s happened to the amazing artificially intelligent assistant promised by Apple and the rest?

Hossein Rahnama, research and innovation director at Ryerson University Digital Media Zone in Toronto and founder of start-up Flybits, says scientists have been trying to create a computerised assistant service since at least 1950 with something new appearing every few years. One of the main problems up until now is these assistants haven’t been very good at understanding crucial context about their human boss.

A human PA would have known that as a vegetarian flying into London I was very unlikely to be hunting urgently for a turkey diner in the US. But that should change.

“You’re now carrying 20 to 40 sensors everywhere you go in a smartphone that has a processor a billion times more powerful than the mainframe computers of the 1950s,” said Dr Rahnama.

Last week Google announced it was making software available to developers to create apps that are aware of your precise location, your physical activity, the weather and even if you have headphones attached to your Android smartphone.

That means, for instance, an app can know you’re in a meeting and not to be disturbed or, given the people in that meeting, who is close by and might be worth inviting to join you. Then, after the meeting, it could suggest and book a nearby place for lunch based on the participants’ previous eating habits.

With massive amounts of cash being pumped into development by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and context-aware startups such as Flybits, the PA in everybody’s pocket could soon be a reality. And, if you can put up with the loss of privacy, like all the best PAs it’ll soon be a mindreader, able to make decisions and recommendations without you even asking.

Posted by Stephanie Meszaros, marketing and communications specialist.