Let Us Introduce You to Siri’s Quirky Predecessor: Speaktoit Assistant

Let Us Introduce You to Siri’s Quirky Predecessor: Speaktoit Assistant

Put simply, Speaktoit Assistant is Siri for Android. Launched around the time of Apple’s iPhone 4S virtual assistant, Speaktoit offers phones bearing the little green robot a comparable service for a hands-free, more efficient life.

More specifically, though, Speaktoit offers virtual assistance and keeps conversations flowing with quirky comments, complete with a personalized avatar character. With this, Speaktoit adds a personal touch, and it works. Just ask one of the notable publications (The New York Times named it one of the top 10 Android apps of 2011, for instance) who gave the Russian startup company rave reviews for the app, which recently became available for iOS and Windows phones.

Forgoing the plane ride to Northern Europe, we used the power of email to catch up with Speaktoit’s CEO Ilya Gelfenbeyn to talk about Speaktoit’s inspiration for the cutting edge virtual assistant. He even gives us the scoop on what iPhone 4S users are saying about the app (sorry, Siri!).

  1. Speaktoit wasn’t a copycat to Apple’s Siri. When did Speaktoit launch, and what was your inspiration?

    We launched Speaktoit in May 2011. It originally debuted on Android, but we’ve come out with iOS and Windows Phone versions in the past six months.

    Our inspiration was really the collective background of our team. We all had experience in computational linguistics and virtual-agent projects, so the interest in starting the Speaktoit app came pretty naturally.

    Our goal in creating this app was (and is) to give users a helpful assistant that simplifies complex user interfaces and makes routine work with other services and devices easier. This app can’t be a novelty; it has to be something that genuinely helps make life more efficient, and that mindset is always with us as we add new features.

  2. How does Speaktoit differ from Siri and other virtual-assistant apps (other than its friendly avatar)?

    Speaktoit supports clarifying conversation with the user, so it’s not just question-and-answer. There’s more back-and-forth dialogue available, which helps build up user preferences and make things run increasingly smoother and more efficient over time.

    Speaktoit also works with more external web services, like Evernote, TripAdvisor, foursquare, etc.

  3. What functions do you personally use Speaktoit for most?

    I find myself using Speaktoit’s calendar integration a lot, since I find it easier to tell my virtual assistant when new events come up than to manually input them.

    The Daily Brief feature has also been very helpful to me. With this, your assistant reads off your to-do list, the news, the weather and your calendar items at the start of your day—automatically. A handy little feature.

  4. What did you find most challenging during the development process for Speaktoit?

    Initially, it was most challenging to create features based on what we thought users would like. We started with features and functions that our small team wanted to see and then hoped that the general public would feel the same way.

    The feature we’ll be most proud of is still under development, but one thing I’ve been proud of is that the Speaktoit Assistant has a personality. I know it’s been fun for our developers to insert jokes and other witty comments, and the user feedback on that has been great to see.

  5. What features can we expect to see improved and updated soon?

    One thing we’re currently trying to improve is hands-free Bluetooth integration. Generally speaking, we tend to prioritize improving or adding features based on user feedback, either through the reviews or through emails from users.

    It’s a fun app to work on in that sense, because our users often get ideas for new features (and features that could use tweaking) before we do.

Bonus question:

Overall, what kind of feedback have you received from your users?

We’ve been really pleased with the feedback from iPhone 4S users. They obviously already have Siri installed, but I think many users were intrigued with comparing and contrasting Speaktoit as a different kind of virtual assistant.

Users have really liked the customizable avatar option for their assistants, which gives Speaktoit a more human feel than Siri’s faceless voice. We’ve also created functionality with Spanish and Russian language versions, which have been well received by our users who speak those languages, as Siri doesn’t support those yet.

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Apps I Love

Eating Healthy is a Snap with Dr. Oz’s App Pick

Photo credit: Getty Images

Dr. Mehmet Oz, famous cardiac surgeon and star of TV’s The Dr. Oz Show, spends much of his time giving nutritional guidance to his show’s viewers and patients. But we bet he never thought advice could get as simple as “take a picture of your food.”

Dr. Oz told USA TODAY that he likes the Meal Snap app. Just use your smartphone to take a photo of your food in front of you, and the app calculates how many calories you’re consuming. Bam—food recording is done.

Of course, the app is not always 100 percent accurate, but we still think the simple act of recording our food helps us be more conscious of what we’re eating. You can share your meals on Twitter, Facebook and foursquare if you want some extra motivation, and you can even view your eating patterns over time.