The team behind Speaktoit, the virtual assistant app for Android, has launched a natural language understanding platform today called Api.ai, which allows developers to voice-enable their apps and devices.
Since Speaktoit’s launch in 2011, the company has sought to integrate its natural language understanding technology into various Internet of Things products.
Today’s announcement is an extension of this goal, opening the API up to all developers. Ilya Gelfenbeyn, CEO of Speaktoit, says: “Wearables, cars, our homes – we’re starting to know what we want to talk to. Speaktoit wants to aid developers in how we talk to them.”
Api.ai promotional video
To get started with integrating the API into your app you just need two things: entities and intents. Put simply, an entity is a group of things that share a common similarity, represented by keywords, while an intent provides the connection between a user’s input and the action (or output) that your application takes.
Take for example an app that deals with latest tech news. You could define a “tech blog” entity and list the most popular blogs as the keywords. You would then define an intent such as “What is the latest news on @blog” (with @blog being any blog you previously listed) and link an action like “list latest news” to it. Api.ai processes the information and if a match is found with your intent, it returns a rendered response to your app, allowing you to perform the action.
The API solves the matter of contextless questions in a smart way, allowing you to set specific contexts based on previous interactions. If you were to follow up your previous question with “What about The Next Web?” the context isn’t readily apparent (i.e. that we’d want the latest news). By defining a context (“we’re talking about tech blogs”) in the previous interaction with the API you overcome this issue and get the response you want: the latest news from The Next Web.
The API handles both requests in plain text as well as voice files. It also provides an iOS and Android SDK for easy integration, with an SDK for web underway.
Api.ai is an exciting development in the world of APIs and Internet of Things. Being able to tell your air-conditioning unit that you’re ‘feeling a bit nippy’ and ‘to do something about it,’ would be incredible.
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