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What Does a Virtual Assistant Do Best?

Displaying poll results.
Gives directions
  1612 votes / 15%
Gives reminders
  2246 votes / 21%
Finds a place to eat
  349 votes / 3%
Helps win trivia games
  579 votes / 5%
Helps cooking
  179 votes / 1%
Gives advice
  195 votes / 1%
Gives faux human contact
  2109 votes / 20%
Helps Find CowboyNeal
  2964 votes / 28%
10233 total votes.
[ Voting Booth | Other Polls | Back Home ]
  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
  • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
  • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
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What Does a Virtual Assistant Do Best?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 27, 2012 @09:32AM (#41136033)

    Or was it "Helps Find CowboyNeal"?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:47AM (#41136585)

      Or was it "Helps Find CowboyNeal"?

      Maybe "CowboyNeal" is a synonym of "clitoris"

      Damn, that changes the meaning of every poll... interesting...

    • by game kid (805301)

      I was highly tempted to vote "faux human contact" for the same reason, but sometimes I really, really need an alarm clock or similar reminder, so "Gives reminders" for me.

    • by Skweetis (46377)

      I initially misread the first option as 'gives erections'. And, frankly, that would be as good a use of a virtual assistant as anything else they do. As cool as the software can be, it's really just a UI paradigm; all of the operations in the poll options are straightforward enough to do with a standard smartphone interface. Not to diminish the importance of UI paradigms, as they can be industry-changing, but at the same time, I've worked through enough of them to be less interested than I used to be.

  • Are there any jobs for "industry specific" virtual assistants? I could see a market for niche (aerospace, research science, etc.) industries where someone with extensive industry experience would be extremely handy. Rather than the lowest cheap dude out of India, how about a research student out of Boston?

    Is there a market for that kind of thing? How would one find such a job?
    • by SomeJoel (1061138)

      Are there any jobs for "industry specific" virtual assistants? I could see a market for niche (aerospace, research science, etc.) industries where someone with extensive industry experience would be extremely handy. Rather than the lowest cheap dude out of India, how about a research student out of Boston? Is there a market for that kind of thing? How would one find such a job?

      Are you asking about job openings for virtual assistants?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't see virtual assistants having helping the end user as their main functionality. Instead, they will be reporting what the user is doing, perhaps even what emotions they are having 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to advertisers, the popo, and perhaps foreign government intel services, which would allow them to immediately find people who don't like their country or their machinations and "pacify" them.

    • Lol - "popo" and "foreign government intel" - you're British, and it's showing.

      First, popo, Northern British for police, and second, the (false) assumption that other governments spy more on their citizens than ours does. I.e. the US Government.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 27, 2012 @09:58AM (#41136203)

    Hello, How may I annoy the fuck out of you today?

    • A VA is an online PA. A human. Not a digital pop-up software agent.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        A VA is an online PA. A human. Not a digital pop-up software agent.

        You sure? They way software development is going, how do you know it's not a program?

        • Have you ever used a digital assistant? Like Siri? You know.

          Anyway, ignore my posts, everyone is using "Virtual Assistant" as either synonymous with "digital assistant software" (Clippy, Siri, and whatever Google's is called) or PDA apps. So I'll just be over here, sulking in a corner, mumbling to myself.

  • What it does best: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hartree (191324) on Monday August 27, 2012 @09:59AM (#41136207)

    Act as a selling point for yet another piece of tech gewgaw.

  • ...how much better humans are as assistants.
    • by jonadab (583620)
      That's odd. I'd never heard of virtual assistants before, so I looked them up to find out what they are. Based on a cursory reading of the Wikipedia article, it sounds like they _are_ human.
  • by pinkushun (1467193) * on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:17AM (#41136321) Journal

    The Doctor: I've even had sexual relations.
    EMH Mark II: Sex?! But how is that possible?! We're not equipped-
    The Doctor: Let's just say I made an addition to my program.
    EMH Mark II: Before you leave... perhaps you could download those sub-routines into my database?

  • Cowboy Neal (Score:5, Funny)

    by captainpanic (1173915) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:29AM (#41136425)

    Hadn't seen the good old Cowboy for a while, but now he's back!

    Thank you, Virtual Assistant!

    • by godrik (1287354)

      I was going to vote for "reminding stuff", but when I saw a cowboy neal option, I decided to celebrate instead!

    • Although for the CowboyNeil option, there should be an app for that, one that detects gravity waves.

  • by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:47AM (#41136587)

    my Oblig. "My Answer Not Present"...

    Drains the crap out of my phone's battery.

    I've made the mistake of using Siri the other day and must not have exited properly - the phone got really hot and used up its entire battery... this is not the firs time that's happened.

    Maybe the "derp" is mine, but it made this the first option thought of.

  • "Frustrate the hell out of you and make you not want to talk to it again." Most of the time Virtual Assistants don't work unless you have a simple, one sentence query AND you are in an urban area. I am all for the Knowledge Navigator [youtube.com] being a real virtual assistant, but the tech still has a long way to go, sadly. Be at least another decade...sigh
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_assistant [wikipedia.org]

      The program on your phone is not a virtual assistant.

      • I'm sorry but that stub referencing material from this century does not supersede the 1986 video (and presumably earlier conceptualization) of a "virtual assistant". Certainly does not get the right to coin nor co-opt prior meaning. I am familiar with "virtual corporations" and the origins of that article's use of the virtual assistant term. However, the concept of virtual corporations still does not precede the Knowledge Navigator concept when it was put forth.
  • by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:56AM (#41136647)
    "I see you're trying to get something done. Shall I download alt.spanking.bondage.sex for you now?"
  • So, who exactly is this "cooking" that the VA helps?
  • Damn it would be nice if someone got the reference.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A virtual assistant is only any good at doing virtual jobs of any.. err.. wait, that came out wrong.

  • by Nkwe (604125) on Monday August 27, 2012 @11:38AM (#41137169)
    If by Virtual Assistant you include my calendar which is synced between my various computers and phone, "giving reminders" is by far the most useful assistant "tech" I have - I use it every day. No, I don't talk to it and it doesn't talk to me, but it provides me the best level of assistance of all the items listed.
    • by swillden (191260)

      Add to that my favorite feature of Google Now: If I put the location of my appointments on my calendar entries, it keeps track of traffic conditions and pops up a reminder about 15 minutes before I have to leave in order to arrive on time based on projected conditions. It's a small thing -- unless I'm in a strange city I'm perfectly capable of estimating travel time myself -- but it's surprisingly freeing not to have to bother. I just keep my calendar up to date and my phone lets me know when I need to l

    • by Kjella (173770)

      I felt Virtual Assistant meant "Whatever anthropomorphic character they've come up with to make a piece of software quasi-act like a humanoid - usually a very stupid one - instead of providing a powerful and informative technical interface." Like Clippy, the Windows search dog and so on. And Siri, which as virtual assistants go is probably the least useless one. My office calendar I wouldn't call a virtual assistant.

      Now, if you replace that message box with a lame animal popping up with a speech bubble say

  • I got man-pages, apropos, whatis, --help option and if there is to much to be dealt with grep.
    If that all fails, I look it up via ixquick, ask it on a forum or usenet.
    So that pretty much covers it I gues...
    Although I didn't find any traces of Cowboy Neal on my box I'm afraid. Maybe I SHOULD get a v.a. :-S
  • by olip85 (1770514) on Monday August 27, 2012 @12:43PM (#41138123)
    'Looks like you're writing a ransom note. Need help? You should use more forceful language, you'll get more money.'
  • A real virtual assistant would do cool stuff like take calls for me and fight battles, like in Mega Man Battle Network 2.

  • Siri, for all her abilities simply doesn't act in a predictable fashion. She has a hard time understanding my wife, but I can get an answer even using the same exact words. When sitting in a Starbucks, I asked her where the nearest coffee shop was. She came up with a donut place 5 miles away. Ask her for the nearest donut shop, and she'll skip the one 5 miles away and tell you about the ones that are even further out. Ask her to call Home Depot, or The Home Depot; half the time, she calls home. Ask her the
    • by idontgno (624372)

      When sitting in a Starbucks, I asked her where the nearest coffee shop was. She came up with a donut place 5 miles away.

      Siri is surprisingly perceptive.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        I was wondering what behavior the parent would really want. I don't know if there is any actual logic in Siri to deal with this sort of case but the outcome seems to be desirable.

        Would you want the computer to assume you are moron and reply with some snarky comment like "you're standing in one?" or would you rather it assume you know that and have a reason for wanting go to another coffee shop and get on about answering your question?

        The point of tool is to be useful, most people know what sort of establi

  • I have the best virtual assistant.

    S/he manages virtual whirled peas.

  • Wikipedia is slightly better at "Helps win trivia games" than Google Maps is at "Gives directions".

  • A "virtual assistant" can only be a non-sentient form of an assistant. A Roomba qualifies as useful, as does an answering machine/VM. I'd like one which could do car repairs.

    Someone must be pretty stupid to need an assistant for looking up directions, finding a place to eat, helping with trivia games, or reading a recipe. Advice from Eliza??? Faux human contact is certainly a marketing opportunity for those /.ers who live in their parent's basements.
    • A "virtual assistant" can only be a non-sentient form of an assistant.

      I see where you're going, but this statement is wrong. If I created a perfect virtual replica of your mind and ran the simulation forward, your virtual mind would be Actually Sentient. This is why we use the term Machine Intelligence instead of Artificial Intelligence, because although the neural network is artificial, it's intelligence is not any more artificial than your own. Also, there was no option for: Anything your secretary could do, but cheaper.

      You may find it interesting that I have a server

      • by msauve (701917)

        It's people like you who bring about realities like The Terminator

        That was a great movie. You're welcome.

  • Tells you about all the stores on the Citadel.... Or kill you with giant machines so you don't get killed by giant machines :)

  • Was I the only one who thought of Jarvis, the computer assistant from Iron Man?

    That would *ROCK*

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Yes, yes it would. The world would change a lot when you can state an idea and the computer can do all the details to make it a working device.

  • I don't need a damn virtual assistant! Now get off my lawn!

  • The obvious (Score:4, Funny)

    by whitroth (9367) <whitroth@nospAM.5-cent.us> on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @12:43PM (#41150835) Homepage

    I can't tell you that, Dave.

                  Hal, er, mark

  • Impress friends

  • Unwanted (Score:4, Informative)

    by Baby Duck (176251) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @02:45PM (#41153537) Homepage
    They excel at not only misunderstanding you, but insist on believing they DID understand you, and waste time bringing unwanted results.
  • by black3d (1648913) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @03:52PM (#41155077)
    A VA is a person, not the voice on your GPS. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_assistant [wikipedia.org]
  • Because I have more important things to do than clap my hands and laugh.

  • We have always had tools that can do each task well - INDIVIDUALLY. The value-add of these virtual assistants (and I presume we are talking about Siri, Google Now, and their breed) is that they are able to merge the different information together and help us manage the immediate tasks on hand.

    If my morning commute is likely to be congested, it will warn me.
    If it detects me lingering very near a wireless AP next to a box office, it can prompt me with some promotions to save a couple of bucks.
    If I haven't con

  • The only thing I use mine for is setting the alarm clock after I have gone to bed without bathing my eyeballs in light and waking myself up again.

    Bob.

  • A virtual assistant simply isn't an acceptable substitute for a real one. Once you have a good PA, it is very difficult to imagine life without them. They do all those stupid little things you don't want to waste your time on and can still manage to keep a schedule for you.

    I have two full-time assistants at work (how else do I have time to post on slashdot), and a personal assistant who works half time at home. Not having to do mundane tasks every day leaves me a lot more time for more productive work, and

  • My virtual assistants help me make fun of B grade movies. Sure their arms are functionless and the one fellow is always out of gumballs, but they do help me keep my sanity out here in space.

The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent. -- Sagan

 



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