This Ain’t Your Daddy’s PDA


Thanks for all your comments both online and through private messages regarding my update, “Are we there yet…?”. My inbox and mind are all a tingle with possibilities. This is a continuation of my last update.

My PDA is Passé
While the notion of enhancing my productivity through the use of a personal assistant and next-gen 3-D office tools was consuming background mind-share, I came across an update from a gentleman by the name of Nir Eyal, who describes his positive experience with medical related assistant apps (i.e. Vida). He also made mention of AI and human co-mingled assistant apps. I recall with nostalgia the promise of a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) as marketed by Palm, Inc. and I rushed out to get a Palm Pilot, then religiously upgraded models until they reached their apex with the Treo. I’ve been generally disenchanted with the PDA hype since I reluctantly boxed-up and donated my Treo years ago. Bolstered with new found enthusiasm, I went on a weekend-long assistant apps research, investigation and experimentation bender.

Is There Anybody Out There?
I tried several fast-flops which I quickly deleted, then found an app appropriately named “Assistant” (assistant.AI) which runs on both android and iOS platforms. In my trials, assistant is as good at voice recognition as Google and is much more user interactive than Siri. But the application is only useful on the android platform –and, is in fact, a complete nuisance on iOS– due to the limited API exposure iOS offers to system-level functions. I decided to give it a few day field trial on my android Nexus 7 tablet and Galaxy S5 mobile devices.

An Unnatural Act
I can’t help but feel that using a voice activated assistant is an unnatural act while in the office and at home. I find myself using a hushed voice and leaning way in while speaking to avoid my embarrassment of talking to a device. Even so, I’m willing to perform this act on a limited basis for a few tasks that are well-suited for a digital assistant such as; news briefs, weather reports, and opening apps that are regularly used. While assistant offers the ability to send text messages, emails and Twitter updates, I find that it is impatient and apparently doesn’t have a large enough buffer to capture more than about a five word sentence. Assistant has a learn function which allows you to create phrases (by recorded voice or typing) and map them to actions. For instance I could map the command, “Open Gmail application” to simply, “email”. This I find very useful and effective.

Is Assistant a Game Changer?
Well, it’s interesting that I actually entertained (for a day or so) switching my primary mobile device platform from iOS to android to take advantage of the increased capability on the android. But, I think that’s somewhat premature and decided to stick with iOS as my primary platform.

Next Level Player
Now does this help me at all with my desire to visualize ideas and concepts in 3-D? No, absolutely not. But I do have some ideas about how to employ assistant-like apps for idea and concept sounding boards.

Stay tuned….

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