Open-Source Virtual Assistant Almond Renamed Genie
Stanford University’s Open Virtual Assistant Lab (OVAL) has rebranded its Almond assistant as Genie. The open-source virtual assistant’s name now matches the conversational tech underlying the platform since it launched in 2018.
Genie (and Almond) were designed as an alternative to Alexa, Google Assistant, and other common voice assistants. Stanford computer systems designer Dr. Monica Lam set up OVAL to create a decentralized virtual assistant that stored and shared information based on user preferences, without mandates from a company. Almond’s success led to discussions of a rebrand to go with making a commercial product out of the academic experiment. The group wanted to come up with a word that would be useful regardless of the language spoken, thus accommodating international users. The researchers considered other names, like Coco, Mario, and Nico, before settling on Genie as the best option, one unrelated to the Genie virtual assistant developed by Disney for its theme parks and resorts or Alibaba’s Tmall Genie voice assistant.
“Previously, Genie was the name of the conversational tech, and Almond was the assistant,” OVAL member Giovanni Campagna shared in a post on the group’s forum. “From now on, Genie will refer to both, and the project as a whole. It was the simplest option to choose only one name for all aspects of the project.”
OVAL works with a mix of companies and individual developers to continually improve the platform. They all share a Wiki-style database called Thingpedia to share ideas and brainstorm ways for tech developers to connect their devices and apps to Genie. The software is already free for computers, smartphones, and Internet of Things devices. The popularity of virtual assistants has only highlighted concerns about letting a small number of companies control vast amounts of personal information As more people use voice assistants in more ways and connect them to more of their lives, the privacy options offered by the companies to assuage their worries aren’t always enough. Genie’s creators hope those who want to use a virtual assistant without privacy concerns might turn to Genie.