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Digital Assistants

Q Actions 2.0

Do more with Voice! Q Actions 2.0 now available on Google Play

By Action Recipes, App Actions, Artificial Intelligence, Conversation, Digital Assistants, Natural Language, Voice, Voice Search No Comments

Do more with Voice

Q Actions 2.0 is here. With this release, we wanted to focus on empowering users throughout their day. As voice is playing a more prevalent part in our everyday lives, we’re uncovering more use cases where Q Actions can be of help. In Q Actions 2.0, you’ll find new features and enhancements that are more conversational and useful.

Directed Dialogue™

Aiqudo believes the interaction with a voice assistant should be casual, intuitive, and conversational. Q Actions understands naturally spoken commands and is aware of the apps installed on your phone, so it will only return personalized actions that are relevant to you. When a bit more information is required from you to complete a task, Q Actions will guide the conversation until it fully understands what you want to do. Casually chat with Q Actions and get things done.

Sample commands:

  • “create new event” (Google Calendar)
  • “message Mario (WhatsApp, Messenger, SMS)
  • “watch a movie/tv show” (Netflix, Hulu)
  • “play some music” (Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, Deezer)

Q Cards™

In addition to providing relevant app actions from personal apps that are installed on your phone, Q Actions will now display rich information through Q Cards™. Get up-to-date information from cloud services on many topics: flight status, stock pricing, restaurant info, and more. In addition to presenting the information in a simple and easy-to-read card, Q Cards™ support Talkback and will read aloud relevant information.

Sample commands:

  • “What’s the flight status of United 875?”
  • “What’s the current price of AAPL?”
  • “Find Japanese food

Voice Talkback™

There are times when you need information but do not have the luxury of looking at a screen. Voice Talkback™ is a feature that reads aloud the critical snippets of information from an action. This enables you to continue to be productive, without the distraction of looking at a screen. Execute your actions safely and hands-free.

Sample commands:

  • “What’s the stock price of Tesla?” (E*Trade)
    • Q: “Tesla is currently trading at $274.96”
  • “Whose birthday is it today?” (Facebook)
    • Q: “Nelson Wynn and J Boss are celebrating birthdays today”
  • “Where is the nearest gas station?”
    • Q: “Nearest gas at Shell on 2029 S Bascom Ave and 370 E Campbell Ave, 0.2 miles away, for $4.35”

Compound Commands

An enhancement to our existing curated Actions Recipes, users can now create Action Recipes on the fly using Compound Command. Simply join two of your favorite actions using “and” into a single command. This allows the users the capability to create millions of Action Recipe combinations from our database of 4000+ actions.

Sample commands:

  • “Play Migos on Spotify and set volume to max”
  • “Play NPR and navigate to work”
  • “Tell Monica I’m boarding the plane now and view my boarding pass”

Simply do more with voice! Q Actions is now available on Google Play.

Q Actions - Voice Talkback

Q Actions – Voice feedback from apps using Talkback™

By App Actions, Conversation, Digital Assistants, User Interface No Comments

Wonder why you can’t talk to your apps, and why your apps can’t talk back to you?  Stop wondering, as Talkback™ in Q Actions does exactly that. Ask “show my tasks” and the system executes the right action (Google Tasks) and, better yet, tells you what your tasks are – safely and hands-free, as you drive your car.

Driving to work and stuck in traffic?  Ask “whose birthday is it today?” and hear the short list of your friends celebrating their birthdays (Facebook). You can then say  “tell michael happy birthday”  to wish Mike (WhatsApp or Messenger). And if you are running low on gas, just say “find me a gas station nearby” and Talkback™ will tell you where the nearest gas station is and how much you’ll pay for a gallon of unleaded fuel.

Say it. Do it. Hear it spoken back!

Q Actions - Directed Dialogue

Q Actions – Task completion through Directed Dialogue™

By Conversation, Digital Assistants, Natural Language, User Interface, Voice No Comments

When an action or a set of actions require specific input parameters, Directed Dialogue™ allows the user to submit the required information through very simple, natural back-and-forth conversation. Enhanced with parameter validation, and user confirmation,Directed Dialogue™ allows complex tasks to be performed with confidence.Directed Dialogue™ is  not about open-ended conversations, but  it about getting things done, simply and efficiently.

With Q Actions, Directed Dialogue™ is automatically enabled  for every action in the system because we know the semantic requirements of each and every action’s parameters. It is not constrained, and  applies across all actions across all verticals.

Another application of Directed Dialogue™ is input refinement. Let’s say I want to purchase batteries. If I just say, “add batteries to my shopping cart” I can get the wrong product added to my cart, as on Alexa, which does the wrong thing for a new product order (the right thing happens on a reorder). In the case of Q Actions, I can provide the brand Duracell and the type 9V 4 pack with very simpleDirected Dialogue™, and exactly the right product is added to my cart – in the Amazon or Walmart app.

Get Q Actions today.

Auto in-cabin experience

The Evolution of Our In-Car Experience

By Digital Assistants, User Interface, Voice No Comments

As the usage model for cars continues to shift away from traditional ownership and leasing to on-demand, ridesharing, and in the future, autonomous vehicle (AV) scenarios, how we think about our personal, in-car experience will need to shift as well.

Unimaginable just a few short years ago, today, we think nothing of jumping into our car and streaming our favorite music through the built-in audio system using our Spotify or Pandora subscription. We also expect the factory-installed navigation system to instantly pull up our favorite or most-commonly used locations (after we’ve entered them) and present us with the best route to or from our current one. And once we pair our smartphone with the media system, we can have our text and email messages not only appear on the onboard screen but also read to us using built-in text-to-speech capabilities.  It’s a highly personalized experience in our car.

When we use a pay-as-you-go service, such as Zipcar, we know we’re unlikely to have access to all of the tech comforts of our own vehicle, but we can usually find a way to get our smartphone paired for handsfree calling and streaming music using Bluetooth. If not, we end up using the navigation app on our phone and awkwardly holding it while driving, trying to multitask. It’s not pretty. And when we hail a rideshare, we don’t expect to have access to any of the creature comforts of our own car.

But what if we could?

Just as our relationship to media shifted from an ownership model–CDs or MP3 files on iPods–to subscription-based experiences that are untethered to a specific device but can be accessed anywhere at any time, it’s time to shift our thinking about in-car experiences in the same way.

It’s analogous to accessing your Amazon account and continuing to watch the new season of “True Detective” on the TV at your Airbnb–at the exact episode where you left off last week. Or listening to your favorite Spotify channel at your friend’s house through her speakers.

All your familiar apps (not just the limited Android Auto or Apple CarPlay versions) and your personalized in-car experience–music, navigation, messaging, even video (if you’re a passenger, of course)–will be transportable to any vehicle you happen to jump into, whether it’s a Zipcar, rental car or some version of a rideshare that’s yet to be developed. What’s more, you’ll be able to easily and safely access these apps using voice commands. Whereas today our personal driving environment is tied to our own vehicle, it will become something that’s portable, evolving as our relationship to cars changes over time.

Just on the horizon of this evolution in our relationship with automobiles? Autonomous vehicles, or AVs, in which we become strictly a passenger, perhaps one of several people sharing a ride. Automobile manufacturers today are thinking deeply about what this changing relationship means to them and to their brands. Will BMW become “The Ultimate Riding Machine?”(As a car guy, I personally hope not!)  And if so, what will be the differentiators?

Many car companies see the automobile as a new digital platform, for which each manufacturer creates its own, branded, in-car digital experience. In time, when we hail a rideshare or an autonomous vehicle, we could request a Mercedes because we know that we love the Mercedes in-car digital experience, as well as the leather seats and the smooth ride.

What happens if we share the ride in the AV, because, well, they are rideshare applications after all? The challenge for the car companies becomes creating a common denominator of services that define that branded experience while still enabling a high degree of personalization. Clearly, automobile manufacturers don’t want to become dumb pipes on wheels, but if we all just plug in our headphones and live on our phones, comfy seats alone aren’t going to drive brand loyalty for Mercedes. On the other hand, we don’t all want to listen to that one guy’s death metal playlist all the way to the city.  

The car manufacturers cannot create direct integrations to all services to accommodate infinite personalization. In the music app market alone there are at least 15 widely used apps, but what if you’re visiting from China? Does your rideshare support China’s favorite music app, QQ?  We’ve already made our choices in the apps we have on our phones, so transporting that personalized experience into the shared in-car experience is the elegant way to solve that piece of the puzzle.

This vision of the car providing a unique digital experience is not that far-fetched, nor is it that far away from becoming reality. It’s not only going to change our personal ridesharing experience, but it’s also going to be a change-agent for differentiation in the automobile industry.

And it’s going to be very interesting to watch.

Voice Enable System Settings with Q Actions 1.3.3!

By App Actions, Digital Assistants, News, Voice Search No Comments

Somewhere in the Android Settings lies the option for you turn on Bluetooth, turn off Wifi, and change sound preferences. These options are usually buried deep under menus and sub-menus. Discoverability is an issue and navigating to the options usually means multiple taps within the Settings app. Yes, there’s a search bar within the Settings app, but it’s clunky, requires typing and only returns exact matches. Some of these options are accessible through the quick settings bar, but discovery and navigation issues still exist. 

In the latest release, simply tell Q Actions what System Settings you want to change. Q Actions can now control your Bluetooth, Wifi, music session, and sound settings through voice.

Configure your Settings:

  • “turn on/off bluetooth”
  • “turn wifi on/off”

Control your music:

  • “play next song”
  • “pause music”
  • “resume my music”

Toggle your sound settings:

  • “enable do not disturb”
  • “mute ringer”
  • “increase the volume”
  • “put my phone on vibrate”

In addition to placing calls to your Contacts, Q Actions helps you manage Contacts via voice. Easily add a recent caller as a contact in your phonebook or share a friend’s contact info with simple commands. If you have your contact’s address in your Contacts, you can also get directions to the address using your favorite navigation app.

Place calls to Contacts:

  • “call Jason Chen
  • “dial Mario on speaker”

Manage and share your Contacts:

  • “save recent number as Mark Johnson
  • “edit Helen’s contact information“
  • “share contact info of Daniel Phan
  • “view last incoming call”

Bridge the gap between your Contacts and navigation apps:

  • “take me to Rob’s apartment”
  • “how do I get to Mike’s house?”

Unlock your phone’s potential with voice! Q Actions is now available on Google Play.

Ever-growing index of App Actions

The largest mobile App Action index in the world!

By App Actions, Digital Assistants, Voice Search No Comments

You often hear the phrase “Going from 0 to 1” when it comes to the accomplishment of reaching a first milestone – an initial product release, the first user, the first partner, the first sale.   Here at Aiqudo, I believe our “0 to 1” moment occurred at the end of the summer in 2017 when we reached our aspirational goal of on-boarding a total of 1000 Actions. It was a special milestone for us as we had built an impressive library of actions across a broad category of apps, using simple software tools, in a relatively short time, with only a handful of devs and interns.  For comparison, we were only 5 months in operation and already had one tenth the number of actions as that “premier bookseller in the cloud” company. These were not actions for games and trivia – these were high utility actions in mobile apps that were not available in other voice platforms. On top of that, we did it all without a single app developer’s help – no APIs required. That’s right, no outside help!

So how were we able to accomplish this? Quite simply, we took the information we knew about Android and Android apps and built a set of tools and techniques that allowed us to reach specific app states or execute app functions.  Our initial approach provided simple record and replay mechanics allowing us to reach virtually any app state that could be reached by the user. Consequently, actions such as showing a boarding pass for an upcoming flight, locating nearby friends through social media or sending a message could be built, tested, and deployed in a matter of minutes with absolutely no programming involved!   But we haven’t stopped there. We also incorporate app-specific and system-level intents whenever possible, providing even more flexibility to the action on-boarding process and our growing library of actions including those that control Alarms, Calendar, Contacts, Email, Camera, Messaging and Phone to name a few. With the recent addition of system level actions, we now offer a catalog of very useful actions for controlling various mobile device settings such as audio controls, display orientation and brightness, wifi, bluetooth,  flash and speaker volume.

Our actions on-boarding process and global actions library solves the action discovery problem that we described in an earlier post. We do the heavy lifting, so all you need to say is show my actions”, or “show my actions for Facebook” and get going! And you don’t need to register your credentials to invoke your personal actions.

Today our action library is ~4000 strong and supports 7 languages across 12 locales.  Not bad for a company less than a year and a half old! We haven’t fully opened up the spigot either! 

Of course, all of this would not be possible without the hard work of the Aiqudo on-boarding team whose job, among other things, is to create and maintain Actions for our reference Q Actions app as well as our partner integrations.   The team continues to add new and interesting actions to the Aiqudo Action library and optimize and re-onboard actions as needed to maintain a high quality of service.

Check back with us for a follow-on post where we’ll discuss how our team maintains actions through automated testing.

vintage alarm clock

What motivates me to get out of bed in the morning?

By Artificial Intelligence, Digital Assistants, Voice Search No Comments

A while back a friend bought an Alexa speaker. He was so excited about the prospects of speaking to his device and getting cool  things done without leaving the comfort of his chair. A few weeks later when I next saw him I asked how he was getting on with it and his reply was very insightful and typical of the problems current voice platforms pose.

Initially when he plugged it in, after asking the typical questions everyone does (‘what is the weather’ and ‘play music by Adele’) he set about seeing what other useful things he could do. He quickly found out that it wasn’t easy to find out what 3rd party skills were integrated with Alexa (I call this the action discovery problem). When he found a resource to provide this information he went about adding skills – local news headlines, a joke teller, Spotify (requiring registration), quiz questions and so on. Then he hit his next problem – in order to use these skills he had to learn a very specific set of commands in order to execute the functionality. This was fine for two or three skills but it very soon became overwhelming. He found himself forgetting the precise language to use for each specific skill and soon became frustrated (the cognitive load problem).

Last week when I saw him again he had actually given the speaker to his son who was using it as a music player in his bedroom. Once the initial ‘fun’ of the device wore off it became apparent that there was very little real utility from it for him. While some skills had value it was painful to find out about them in the first place, add them to Alexa and then remember the specific commands to execute them…

The reason I found this so interesting was that these are precisely the problems we have solved at Aiqudo. Our goal is to provide consumers a truly natural voice interface to actions, starting with all the functionality in their phone apps, without having to remember specific commands needed to execute them. For example if I want directions to the SAP centre in San Jose to watch the Sharks I might say, ‘navigate to the SAP Centre’,  ‘I want to drive to the SAP Centre’ or ‘directions to the SAP Centre’. Since a user can use any of these commands, or other variants, they should all just work. Constraining users to learn the precise form of a command just frustrates them and provides a poor user experience. In order to leverage the maximum utility from voice, we need to understand the meaning and intent behind the command irrespective of what the user says and be able to execute the right action.

So how do we do it?

This is not a simple answer, so we plan to cover the main points in a series of blog posts over the coming weeks. These will focus at a high level on the processes, the technology, the challenges and the rationale behind our approach. Our process has 2 main steps.

  • Understand the functionality available in each app and on-board these actions into our Action Index
  • Understand the intent of a user’s command and subsequently, automatically execute the correct action.

In step 1, by doing the ‘heavy lifting’ and understanding the functionality available within the app ecosystem for users, we overcome the action discovery problem my friend had with his Alexa speaker. Users can simply say what they want to do and we find the best action to execute automatically – the user doesn’t need to do anything. In fact if they don’t have an appropriate app on their device for the command they have just issued we actually recommend it to them and they can install it!  

Similarly in step 2, by allowing users the freedom to speak naturally and choose whatever linguistic form of commands they wish, we overcome the second problem with Alexa – the cognitive load problemusers no longer have to remember very specific commands to execute actions. Voice should be the most intuitive user interface – just say what you want to do.  We built the Aiqudo platform to understand the wide variety of ways users might phrase their commands, allowing users to go from voice to action easily and intuitively.  And did I mention that the Aiqudo platform is multilingual, enabling natural language commands in any language the user chooses to speak in.

So getting back to my initial question – what motivates me to get out of bed in the morning? – well, I’m excited to use technology to bring the utility of the entire app ecosystem to users all over the world so they can speak naturally to their devices and get stuff done without having to think about it!

In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about step 1making the functionality in apps available to users.

Automatically personalized action recipes.

Automate your day with Action Recipes in Q Actions 1.3.2!

By Action Recipes, App Actions, Digital Assistants, News No Comments

Finding yourself routinely using the same set of actions as you commute to work or prepare for your workout session? Action Recipes string together your favorite actions to help you get through the day. With Action Recipes, you can run multiple actions from the apps you use with simple voice commands.

Hands on the steering wheel as you start your daily commute to work?

“start my morning commute”

  • Start streaming NPR as Google Maps navigates you through the best route to work

Earbuds on, phone stowed, as you get ready for your routine run around the neighborhood or nearby trail?

“start my workout”

  • Play your favorite tracks on Spotify, Pandora, or Google Play Music as MapMyRun, Mi Fit or Google Fit logs your workout session

Hands tied as you gather your carry-ons and prepare to board the plane?

“ready to board”

  • Send someone a quick message through SMS, WhatsApp, or WeChat as United, American Airlines, Alaska, or Delta brings up your boarding pass

These Action Recipes are already created for your convenience. Just grab the latest version of Q Actions from the Google Play Store and swipe left until you reach the My Action Recipes page to preview your supported Action Recipes. More interesting recipes will just start surfacing here as they come online.

Action Recipes are automatically personalized for you – the right actions are executed based on the apps you use for these tasks. We are working on further controls and customizability.

App Store Icon

We would love to hear your feedback on these Action Recipes. Please let us know what you think!

world cup with voice

Hacking the World Cup with Voice

By Digital Assistants, Voice Search No Comments

“Watch the world cup live”

Can your digital assistant let you *watch* the world cup live with a single command? The answer is NO!

Not Google Assistant, not Alexa, not Siri.  And definitely not when you are not situated on your couch. They can show you the scores, and upcoming matches, but that’s easy 🙂

But … you don’t want to know old scores. You want to watch the match live! Now!

That’s what we do at Aiqudo – using Moto Voice, powered by Aiqudo, and the Moto Projector Mod, we’ve enabled this incredible experience – this Voice to Action(™) experience comes to you from the Fox Sports app.

“Turn on the projector” and get some beers!

Q Actions power Moto Voice

Q Actions Platform now powers App Actions in Moto Voice. #HelloMoto

By App Actions, Digital Assistants, Machine Learning, Voice No Comments

Our first official day at Aiqudo was in April, 2017.  One year later, we are excited to announce that our Q Actions platform is now live and powering app actions in Moto Voice. The experience is being rolled out, as we speak, to millions of users using Motorola phones in 7 languages in 12 markets, with more to come. Watch the coverage of the always on voice capabilities during Motorola’s recent launch event. 

Most of the app actions we power are not currently available in other digital assistant platforms – actions in apps like Facebook, Whatsapp, Wechat, Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, Waze, to mention a few.  And we just got started …

On supported Motorola phones, you just say “Hello Moto” and issue simple commands – hands free.

Our solution provides high utility to users. You can get things done instantly within your favo(u)rite apps, privately and without having to register credentials. Check out the Voice-to-Action™ experience in the video below:

We’ve addressed several hard technical problems, including:

  • Command matching for simple, intuitive commands in multiple languages: You speak naturally – no need to learn a specific syntax. A single command can provide matching actions from multiple apps, providing user choice.
  • Action execution of personal app actions:  We execute actions in your favo(u)rite apps, including your private actions, without requiring registration or login credentials. We use several techniques for action execution, and can even execute tasks consisting of multiple actions in different apps.
  • Action on boarding operations: We support actions in multiple versions of apps simultaneously – in multiple locales. Our on boarding process takes minutes, does not mandate APIs, coding or developer engagement, enabling rapid scale. Our flexible Machine Learning systems are trained incrementally with simple exemplary commands.

We will be writing more about our contributions in these areas over the next few weeks.

For the most powerful, fully hands free experience, get a new phone with always on Moto Voice, and say “Hello Moto”!

Or, for other Android phones, you can download the Q Actions app from the Play Store.