Phones can be Personal Assistants

Mobile phones are no longer just communication devices. They are also used as follows:
a) As consoles for entertainment
b) As personal task management and planning tools

Keeping the second use in mind, it would be in the cell phone manufacturers’ best interests to develop highly integrated task management tools for cell-phones.

Cell phones today lack seamless integration between the email and SMS applications and the task management applications.

When SMS messages or Email messages are received by the user about a task, there is little to no assistance in transferring the relevant data to a task management application.

What seems to be needed is a way to assist the user in capturing the information related to the task and moving it to a third-party task management application on the cell-phone.

But intention recognition algorithms can do just that!

If an SMS says “What is the name of the person we met the other day?” it should be possible to detect that this is an inquiry and that the recipient now has the task of sending a response.

Another example is the following SMS “Can you please send me the draft report by 2 pm”. This SMS contains a directive and the recipient now has a task to complete by a deadline.

Yet another example is the following “Would 4 pm work for you?” This is a meeting request.

These categories of tasks can be identified by looking at incoming and outgoing SMS messages and classifying them into various categories of tasks.

There is also an entity extraction task involved (identifying the deadlines and time ranges).

Once task intentions are identified, the phone could take the following steps:
a) The phone confirms with the user whether or not a task needs to be created.
b) The phone passes the task to the user’s preferred task management tool.

I just wanted to point you to an interesting dissenting view from a Google engineer. In the blog post “Will Google fight Apple’s Siri with Alfred?“, Alexei Oreskovic quotes Google’s head of mobile Andy Rubin as saying:

“I don’t believe that your phone should be your assistant. Your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone.”

However, the same article also says the following:

“On Tuesday Google said it had acquired the tech company that has developed Alfred, a smartphone app that acts as a “personal assistant” to make recommendations based on your interests and your “context,” such as location, time of day, intent and social information.”

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