The Rise of the Smart Assistant

Almost everybody wants to have an assistant, even if people won’t freely admit it. Who doesn’t want an extra set of hands to help out with chores, scheduling, reminders, meetings, reservations, and the myriad of other tasks that we need to complete every single day?

Just a few years ago, the only way you could get yourself an assistant was to pay one a full-time salary. Very few people can afford the luxury having somebody help them with all of the tasks and information in their lives. But that has rapidly changed with new technology that makes it easier to outsource our lives.

This is what I call “Smart Assistant” technology, and I group it into three distinct buckets:

  1. Technological Assistants: The best known of these is Apple’s Siri, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Evi, for example, is far better at searching for relevant information on-the-fly.
  2. Virtual Assistants: Virtual assistants have been around for a while, but now they’re far more affordable thanks to services like Zirtual (which I use and love) and FancyHands. Rather than paying somebody $50K a year, you can pay $50 to $200 a month and get almost all the same benefits.
  3. Task Outsourcing: I’m a huge fan of services like Taskrabbit and Zaarly, which lets you outsource chores like food delivery, IKEA furniture assembly, laundry and grocery shopping. The convenience is worth the price.

While each bucket is vastly different, they help accomplish the same things — they help people save time, and they help put people’s minds at ease.

We’re only at the beginning of this phenomenon though. I believe it’s especially true for technological assistants, which are in the best position to deal with (but have yet to solve) one of the biggest problems of the Internet age: cognitive and information overload.

Smart assistants are huge businesses. Five years from now, you’re going to wonder how you lived without them.

Siri image courtesy of Flickr, Kaptain Kobold