From the same company that brought us Siri, SRI International launched Kasisto in 2014 with the aim of taking mobile conversation to the next level. Founded with the vision of helping consumers in everyday customer interactions through intelligent conversations on any device, the team at Kasisto started by enabling financial institutions to add virtual personal assistants to their mobile and tablet offerings. With a conversational platform and emphasis on great user experience, the virtual personal assistants are made easy to implement, customize and maintain. Dror Oren, VP of Product at Kasisto, will be speaking at the upcoming RE.WORK Virtual Assistant Summit in San Francisco on 28-29 January about taking the virtual assistant and making it the virtual specialist. We caught up with him to hear his thoughts on this field of tech.  Can you tell us about Kasisto and the company vision?Kasisto offers conversational artificial intelligence technology through branded virtual personal specialists to dramatically improve the usability of enterprise mobile applications. Kasisto’s user interface provides multi-modal capabilities that let consumers easily and quickly access information and perform simple and complex tasks using voice, text or touch on their smart devices. The company leverages decades of research and development in artificial intelligence by SRI International.  What are the key factors that have enabled recent advancements in the virtual assistant space?As consumers continue to leverage digital channels to interact with businesses, brands are presented with an increased challenge of humanizing their digital channels to continue building brand loyalty. The demand for consumers to have more efficient digital interactions with the businesses they frequent has progressed the need for virtual assistants that can offer depth of knowledge in specific subjects, as well as the ability to process transactions. The deeper, more knowledgeable virtual assistant that is emerging is called a virtual specialist. An example of a virtual specialist is Kasisto. Unlike virtual personal assistants, like Siri, Google Now and Cortana, which are broad but shallow, Kasisto’s software is based on deep learning and knowledge about the banking domain. This allows a user to ask specific questions and interact with the mobile platform as if they were in the bank branch.    What are the main applications for virtual assistants at the moment? If you skim the news, virtual assistants are currently a very trending topic. Right now, virtual assistants are predominately used for surface level interactions. Think Siri or Cortana. You can only ask them very basic questions. What are emerging are virtual specialists that can go deeper into topics and process transactions. This creates a whole new market for virtual specialists that cater to specific verticals and can really leverage the digital revolution to build brand loyalty. These new virtual specialists will really know the user and be able to even offer up-sale opportunities that cater to the user’s preference. For example: Imagine asking your phone’s banking application: “How much did I last spend at my favorite store, and do they have any current sales promotions?” …and actually getting answers as if you were talking to a person.  Which new verticals and industries will this expand to in the future?We are actively considering verticals such as wealth management, commercial banking, benefits and commerce.   What developments can we expect to see in virtual assistants in the next 5 years?We expect to see deeper, specialized assistants (virtual specialists) in multiple, complex verticals such as insurance, healthcare and others.  With the progress in wearables and home automation, we would expect to see more assistants helping do things in the home. Another trend we are expecting is that the speech recognition layer would be commoditized and owned by large companies such as Google and Amazon who would open APIs for specialists to use those and focus on their respective vertical.   What advancements excite you most in the field?Virtual specialists that branch out of the entertainment field and provide real utility in areas such as customer care. Virtual assistants that use deep learning to get better quickly. Assistants that are replacing old models (such as IVRs) and make consumers’ lives better.   Dror Oren will be speaking at the RE.WORK Virtual Assistant Summit in San Francisco on 28-29 January. Early Bird tickets are available until 4 December, for more information visit the event page here. For further discussions on Virtual Assistants, Deep Learning, AI & more, join our group here!