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Siri Shortcuts And Google Assistant Shortcuts Reveal The Future (And Danger) Of Smart AI Assistants

Apps as we know them are vulnerable, especially in the smart home sector …

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In iOS 12, Apple started rolling out Siri Shortcuts. In iOS 14, they’re getting much smarter and more pervasive. Now Google is rolling out shortcuts for Google Assistant.

In doing so, they’re both showing us the near future power of AI-driven smart assistants.

And they’re highlighting the vulnerability of apps.

If you often get a coffee in the morning, Siri will notice and start suggesting it. And in the iOS 14 beta that I’m currently testing, I’m noticing significantly more of Siri’s suggestions. Some of them are very simple, like suggesting I set my alarm clock for my usual get-up time. Others are more sophisticated, like offering to put my phone in do-not-disturb mode when I’m starting a livestream or a podcast recording. Likewise, Google Assistant is rolling out the ability to control apps more via commands like “new tweet,” which will open up Twitter with the tweet composition window open, ready and waiting.

An example of Siri Shortcuts Apple

On the technical level, what’s happening here is that developers are putting hooks into apps that AI assistants like Siri and Google Assistant can activate.

Apple is taking that to the next level with the Shortcuts app, which lets you tie multiple actions in multiple apps together, much like Amazon and Google have done with Alexa Routines and Google Assistant Routines. With Shortcuts or Routines, you can turn off the lights, turn on an alarm, lock your doors, and settle down to sleep. On a user experience level, it’s a massive time saver. You go from potentially having to access three different apps for three distinct capabilities, to issuing one vocal command.

But the capabilities beg the question: why do you need the apps at all?

If Siri or Google or Alexa see a pattern and suggest a course of action, why can’t they just take the action themselves? For example, if Siri notices that you order a coffee in the Starbucks app every morning, why can’t Siri just order a coffee and be done with it? If Google knows that you always take a Lyft to the airport for a trip, why can’t it just order the car for you?

The challenge is that it’s not just about technology.

And, even in Apple’s case, it’s not just about user experience.

It’s also about brands and customers.

If you’re controlling a Philips Hue light via Siri, Philips still counts you as a customer. You had to, after all, buy the light. And you had to use the Philips Hue app to set it up initially. But if every time after you turn it on or off with Siri, Philips starts to feel like a third wheel:…

John Koetsier

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