What are Virtual Assistants?

As voice recognition and gesture-based technologies advance and more recently, converge, we are quickly moving away from the notion of interacting with our devices via a pointer and keyboard. Virtual assistants are a credible extension of work being done with natural user interfaces (NUIs), and the first examples are already in the marketplace. The concept builds on developments in interfaces across the spectrum of engineering, computer science, and biometrics. The Apple iPhone’s Siri and Android's Jellybean are recent mobile-based examples, and allow users to control all the functions of the phone, participate in lifelike conversations with the virtual assistant, and more. A new class of smart televisions are among the first devices to make comprehensive use of the idea. While crude versions of virtual assistants have been around for some time, we have yet to achieve the level of interactivity seen in Apple's classic video, Knowledge Navigator. Virtual assistants of that caliber and their applications for learning are clearly in the long-term horizon, but the potential of the technology to add substance to informal modes of learning is compelling.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • The virtual assistant gives students information when they need it. This allows for less reliance on memorization. The prevalence of students having smart phones or tablets is on the rise. Once teachers start allowing students to use it, it changes what is being asked of students. - mrskeeler mrskeeler Feb 12, 2015
  • mentoring, coaching, tutoring- jmorrison jmorrison Feb 22, 2015
  • The VA prompting a student for the homework in the evening which is yet to be turned in. No more questions on what's due or when for parents. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Feb 22, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • These devices weave into the lives of students and knows things about them and helps them to be more successful in school. This technology will improve to be more predictive to remind students of work that is due, to suggest tips for how to get the work done, etc... - mrskeeler mrskeeler Feb 12, 2015
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • Voice activation continues to rise. We may need to teach students how to dictate an essay/writing aloud. It's a different way of thinking...composing with a keyboard vs verbal. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Feb 7, 2015
  • I am not sure about teaching students to dictate... a room full of kids talking to their device is not a great system.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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  • This is an example of a VA service provider via college students. Not a "technology" but the concept holds promise as the STEM generation grows, and has a need for a personal time manager.
https://www.zirtual.com/ - jmorrison jmorrison Feb 9, 2015

Ten things to outsource to a VA
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225318 - jmorrison jmorrison Feb 9, 2015
International virtual Assistants Association
http://ivaa.org/- jmorrison jmorrison Feb 9, 2015
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