will.i.am Debuts New AI-powered Voice Assistant Omega
Last year will.i.am announced that his consumer products company, I.am+, was building an AI-based voice assistant called Omega. Salesforce Ventures backed the Omega project with a $117 investment. Last week at the company’s annual Dreamforce conference, will.i.am and his co founder Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan demonstrated the Omega voice assistant for the first time.
The Omega Architecture
Will.i.am sees one of Omega’s key is its ability to transition smoothly between a user’s information in multiple device applications, commenting:
The Omega architecture allows you to do things for consumers that really relieves some of the pain points that we don’t really articulate because we’re just we’ve conformed to the pain points, and it’s normal now.
One of those pain points being that while certain assistants can pull up information for you, they cannot perform the actual task asked of them from start to finish. Users can ask Omega to instantly play a track by an artist, give news about that artist, and hear where they are playing next. Pretty standard for a voice assistant, but in the demo, Omega could even find the next time the artist is playing live near the artist, suggest certain tickets and book them in one fluid sequence. In comparison, when Siri is asked the same question, the voice assistant simply pulls up the Google search results.
Similar to how Google Assistant is trying to get more done, Omega is aiming to be more than a voice search service. It wants to be an actual assistant to its user. Omega even demonstrated a feature similar to that of Google Duplex,. It can make a live phone call on the user’s behalf to make a restaurant reservation. Omega will even place a restaurant on hold when the restaurant says they cannot accommodate a specific time, in order to call the user back and see if another time works for them, and then will continue with the booking if possible.
Enough to set Omega Apart?
Omega is trying to address what it believes is a gap between what consumers want from their voice assistants and what is missing from the current landscape, But demonstrations are only just that – demonstrations. Getting a product into the hands of consumers, ensuring that it works, is a different story, and one that we’ve seen before. Consider how the initial Samsung Bixby demo was extremely promising, but after its release it received such a backlash that Samsung actually disabled the dedicated Bixby button on their recent Galaxy devices.
As of right now, there is no release date for Omega. It is unclear when and how we will be able to really measure how Omega stacks up against other voice assistants, especially because Omega is currently targeting enterprise, rather than consumer products. will.i.am already has a proven track record of landing enterprise clients. Their first client was landed last year, Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile. According to The Verge, however, Omega has been used by Deutsche Telekom since June – but for a customer support chatbot rather than the voice assistant it is claimed to be. Something else to consider is that we might also see Omega being used in music devices, as I.am+ already has their button headphones, and a strong tie to the music industry. Even if we have yet to see Omega in consumer hands, it is promising to know that tech companies are focused on problems in the voice assistant industry.