Virtual Assistants Are Still Vital to My Productivity But 2017 Was Ho-Hum

The Consumer Virtual Assistant landscape was pretty uneventful in 2017 but it felt more like business model stagnation than any limit in the longterm technologies. Humans are still involved in much of the supply-side fulfillment and, well, human labor is still expensive. In addition, I wonder if consumers will trust Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon AI assistants to truly represent their best interests given ongoing investigations into bias in algorithms, designing for addiction (err i mean engagement), and the regulatory conversations occurring around 2016 elections.

My Year One 2015 summary and my Year Two 2016 summary


What Virtual Assistants did I rely upon in Year Three 2017?

Facebook Messenger M: While M moves more towards auto-replies, I believe I still have access to the fuller version of M that more closely resembles the original virtual assistant beta (remember when you could ask M to do nearly anything?). I use M to make reservations for restaurants and such when there’s not an online booking option clearly available. Also light amounts of information retrieval (call XYZ and ask 123), but stay away from anything more complex.

Wonder: I use Wonder for b2b’ish research but they’re really good for any type of research question where you could imagine a subject expert needing 15-30 minutes to pull you together an answer. Think of it as someone who is really good at Googling. They’ve continued to tune their business model, now bifurcating into faster, subscription-based product and a slower a la carte. Quality can really vary but they’ll redo a project if you find the results insufficient. Use this URL to get yourself $15 off a task:

Fancy Hands: Oh Fancy Hands, how I love you. FH isn’t great for work that needs real intelligence/decision making, but I find the timeliness and quality of execution to be great. Often my main purpose is time-shifting not just time-saving – ie having someone call a business during regular daytime hours where I don’t have a chance to prioritize getting it done between 9-5. If you want to use FancyHands, you get a discount using my referral code. Here’s a snapshot of some recent requests:

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Are there other virtual assistant services you use that I should give a try?