Siri, the sexy voice assistant that comes with iPhone 4S, is one of the most-desired features of the iPhone 4S. Siri is supposedly so wonderful that there are almost 10 Android Siri wannabes, and none comes close to being the actual Siri. That might soon change, though, because work is in full force from various developers to be Siri and beat Siri. One such effort is Eliza from IPSoft.
Siri can find you the nearest Thai restaurant. But Eliza can fix your computer problems. IPSoft is working on an artificial intelligence system called Eliza which is a virtual engineer set out to fix computer and network infrastructure problems. Eliza is already fixing two-thirds of the problems for ING and Morgan Stangley.
Yes, the US$ 25 billion industry where people call to get their computer infrastructure problems resolved is all set for a sea change. So much so that IPSoft might keep a lion’s share of this industry, which is estimated to grow to US$ 45 billion by 2017.
What does this mean to IT industry?
Jeya Kumar of IPSoft says Indian outsourcing companies will grow non-linearly, but will not go on a hiring spree to gain new business. “Indian outsourcing companies won’t think about it probably for another 10 years,” says Kumar. All it needs to do is add more hardware. The industry does not have to go through the complex and tiring process of interviewing people, rolling out offer letters and spending millions of dollars to train them and finally getting them on-board.
The boon of IT and the pain of IT are gone in one fell-swoop.
It’s hard to think that Indian IT companies are not looking at this kind of solution already. I don’t think the Indian IT industry is still looking at body shopping and dollar billing. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but the industry might already be looking at these kind of solutions.
The challenges to Eliza are different from the challenges Siri is facing. Siri is a consumer technology and whatever Siri could do and can’t do is news. Be it starting your car or not being able to find an abortion clinic, Siri can be praised or ridiculed immediately. Eliza doesn’t have to go through the same humiliation. It’s because Eliza runs behind the scenes and the caller doesn’t have to know if he or she is speaking to a human or a machine. Unless IPSoft has a policy to reveal this, Eliza will have more data and time without the pressure to improve itself.
Of course this all depends on how effective IPSoft’s Eliza really is. First there was Watson, and then there was Siri. Could Eliza be the Siri of Outsourcing?