19-05-2017 NIJHUM RUDRA
A couple of weeks back, Panasonic launched its own inbuilt artificial intelligence based virtual assistant – Arbo - on its new handsets, Panasonic Eluga Ray Max and Eluga Ray X. Arbo means a framework that supports climbing plants. Nijhum Rudra spoke to Pankaj Rana, Business Head, Mobility Division, Panasonic India, to understand the future of Virtual Assistants in India and how technology like Arbo is going to play a pivotal role among the Indian consumers.
What are the various technologies used in designing Arbo? Also, please elucidate the functionality of Arbo on handsets.
Artificial assistant “Arbo,” a software for Panasonic phones brings to life simple smartphone operations utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) thereby, introducing a new user interface. This software will be available on the Eluga Ray series smartphones. The newly developed software – Arbo is quick (up to 3 actions) and easy (single-hand) to operate. As a virtual assistant Arbo learns user behavior based on time and location and basis that it automatically displays and make suggestions on screen such as frequently contacted phone numbers and SNS users, applications, Wi-Fi, volume, etc. settings and connection with IoT devices (Bluetooth device etc). In addition, Arbo features a user interface that displays icons in a circular, radial fashion, enabling single-handed, intuitive operation (patent pending design).
Can you please describe how Virtual Assistants are capable of playing a pivotal role among Indian consumers? Do you think that in the coming few years, it would be a decisive factor while purchasing smartphones?
The Virtual assistant is a self-learning technology that understands the user behavior and then maps our daily activities for us accordingly. For instance, if a user makes personal call to a particular time, on a regular basis, Arbo will track the pattern and prompt you to make that call. Moreover, it keeps a track of all the applications functioning on the smartphone, gathers detailed information on their habits and informs them about it accordingly. In the near future artificial assistant will be one of the deciding factors for the buyers to select their smartphone and virtual assistants are poised to become the new digital assistant.
How do you see the future of Arbo amidst Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby?
We are a late entrant in the smartphone segment but have the necessary fuel of differentiation. With a legacy of a 99 year old brand, we have the requisite experience, technology and expertise to leverage artificial intelligence. In fact, we have already started the pioneering work in the AI space and strongly believe that Arbo can offer a practical solution in the connected world.
Technology is evolving at a fast pace in India, but do you think we are ready to deploy Virtual Assistants in our daily lives, especially in semi-urban and rural areas of India? What are the various criteria needed for this development?
The consumer is well aware of the new developments in the industry and they are exploring the new technology to make their lives easier. With the increased penetration of technology in our lives, IoT will transform our everyday objects into an ecosystem of information that will help us communicate, sense or interact with the environment and enrich our lives. Moreover, customers are upgrading their lifestyle and with the rise in disposable income and improvement in standard of living the next wave of growth will be from semiurban and rural areas. With the advent of smartphone, rural India comprising of about 850 million consumers is rapidly accepting technology offering a tremendous opportunity here.
Arbo is made up of various top-notch technologies. Do you think Arbo/VA can play a crucial role in helping the intelligence departments across the globe cull terrorism and other criminal activities?
Our recent foray into artificial intelligence is a testament of our willingness to adapt ourselves with the needs of the consumer. This willingness further led to our development of ‘Arbo’, software that brings to life simple smartphone operation utilizing AI and a new user interface.
Can Arbo be used in various applications of IoT along with other smart devices, especially the ones manufactured by Panasonic? What is Panasonic’s future roadmap for Arbo (or, VA in general) in India?
Keeping up with the dynamic environment and changing needs of the people, manufacturers have started looking into how to improve existing products and introduce a new smart range which will improve our quality of life, our energy usage and our time management. With introduction of IoT, consumer expects their devices to be packed with smart features and innovations which are more energy efficient, time efficient and make household chores less dread inducing. The introduction of Arbo can be one of the connecting features for IoT, which will make our day to day lives easier. The new AI assistant software will be available in the Eluga Ray series smartphones and will also become available on the Eluga Pulse X designed for the Middle East and African markets. Panasonic India will continue to update this software, to expand the scope of automatic displays and suggestions, to further evolve the user interface, and to enhance usability. Moreover, by combining India’s prowess in software development and Panasonic’s strengths in product design, we will continue to introduce products and services that offer new value to customers.