Cross app AI

2017-09-04 2 min read

    More and more apps are starting to leverage some form of AI to improve the user experience. These range from inferring user preferences when surfacing new information to notifications that come just at the right time to be helpful. Google has been leading the pack here and nearly every product has some AI-based functionality built in: Photos is doing an unbelievable job of identifying faces and objects, Maps is all about pathfinding and is constantly improving as new data is collected, Assistant is probably my favorite new product and serves as a generic catch all for keeping track of my schedule and answering my ad hoc trivia questions.

    While these services are constantly improving what I can’t wait for is one that is able to work across services and applications. Apps tend to be optimized for one specific use case but the real world requires tasks that consist of multiple steps. For many seemingly simple tasks I need to open a variety of apps and do a tiny bit in each app but would much prefer this could be done in a single request. An example of this is me figuring out whether I should take Citibike, the subway, or do a regular walk. In an ideal world this would be a function of the weather, bike and station availability, the train schedule, and whether I’m trying to get somewhere by a specific time. It’s possible to get all this information but by the time I dig through each of these sources it would have been better to just pick one and go with it. Yet if I had all the information at once it wouldn’t be too difficult to make an immediate decision.

    I suppose what I want is an ifttt that doesn’t require anyone to write integrations between apps but is able to self-develop the appropriate links and API connections. Sure it’s possible for someone to write the code manually for each combination but it’s just not tractable. This doesn’t seem as difficult as true artificial general intelligence but it’s beyond what we currently have. My gut is that we’re not that far away - so much of our APIs are meticulously documented which should make the integrations easy - it’s just the cross app logic that depends on a variety of human contexts that’s difficult to program.