Thursday, December 22, 2011

Google Buys a Virtual Assistant


Android owners looking for a fully-integrated response to Apple’s Siri will have to wait a little longer.

Google announced on Tuesday that it acquired a company called Clever Sense, the maker of the app Alfred, which serves as a digital personal assistant. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Mashable confirmed with Google that the Alfred app does not have voice-command capabilities. Similar to Siri, he does search the Internet and provide users with recommendations from restaurant suggestions to bar and nightlife options. Alfred also learns user preferences and tastes over time to make more targeted recommendations. 

But Siri does that already, and can also answer questions about the weather, news and directions. It’s unclear whether Alfred can catch up.

Also unclear: whether Alfred was named after Bruce Wayne’s confidant and butler in Batman. Clever Sense has said it originally picked out the name Seymour for the app. 

“Today, we are excited to join Google and start a new chapter in curating the world around us,” Clever Sense said in a statement. “Together with the Google team, we will accelerate our efforts toward this shared vision. Google helps local businesses connect with potential customers, and its worldwide presence can bring the value of Clever Sense to a much larger audience.”

“Discovering local information is extremely important to both users and businesses, and the acquisition of Clever Sense will benefit both,” the company added.

Google isn’t yet poised to fully take on Siri, but Alfred is a step in the right direction. There’s a good chance Google has voice-recognition software in the works for Android — in which case, Alfred could well be the shell they put around it.

Could Alfred take on Siri in the future? Let us know in the comments.

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