Microsoft & BMW partner for a productive virtual assistant (Demo)

by Nicole on May 7, 2019

A few months ago at CES, BMW launched a personal assistant for its cars, today that assistant gets smarter with the help of Microsoft’s virtual assistant. BMW has partnered with Microsoft to build a virtual assistant for their cars, the automaker already has already begun optimizing their assistant to control their cars, Microsoft’s will become apart of offering a higher level of productivity to its drivers.

Currently, BMW’s assistant is focused on car, BMW Intelligent Personal  Assistant, it’s focused on things like adjusting the temperature and changing the music. Microsoft is stepping in with a whole new focus, one that aims to make your time in the car more productive.

BMW and Microsoft’s partnership will pair the productive nature of Microsoft’s platform with the vehicle. Let’s say you want to call into a meeting while you’re in the car, without a partnership the car might leave the windows open and the music volume up when it made the call. To be truly useful to the driver the car needs to respond to the requests as well.

At BUILD I got a demo of the Microsoft’s Virtual Assitant Solution Accelerator, for this demo they named it Joy, in action, the demo was real-time running on LTE in the cloud. There was some latency which is normal for the show floor environment and the guys from Microsoft showed to do lists and calendars updating real time with new entries. Joy, the virtual assistant was even updated to greet Nicole from Mobile Geeks! There are plans to eventually move some of the functionality directly on to the edge to increase stability and speed.

In the demo in addition to the use of natural language with responses to questions like “Sure” or “That sounds good” you can see Microsoft’s graph in action when he asks Joy to call Alex. Joy suggests an Alex that you might want to reach. Why this is interesting is because Joy was able to identify which Alex you were trying to reach based on Microsoft’s Graph. It securely maps the relationships between people, information and activities within the context of an organization to show connection points and insights to improve the ways people work and work together. Joy was able to figure out which was the right Alex based on your current connections.

It’s one thing for your car to have access to your email, tasks and calendar but it’s another to be able to make changes to them from the car. In the past, I’ve noticed a few manufacturers have only been able to roll out read-only access to these things and didn’t have the ability to make changes. We truly appreciated being able to see the elements on the tablet update real time.

When it comes to email integration in the car you’ll be able to access Microsoft email services as well as Google’s services. In case you were worried you might have to switch back to Hotmail to take advantage.

BMW is aiming to have a flexible platform as they are also partnered with Amazon Alexa. Speaking with Philipp-Peter Altmann, from BMW’s Conversational AI Platform he viewed multiple voice assistants as a value add for the consumer.

“People know which assistants are right for what task based on how they might use them in the rest of their lives”. Alexa is suited for shopping and making purchases where Microsoft has a productivity focus. BMW isn’t an expert in these areas, they are mobility experts who are partnering with other platforms to offer the most complete set of services they can to their customers.

Personally, we’re suspicious of Amazon’s entry into the automotive space, it’s giving the services platform entry into the car. Sure, it seems innocent enough to put in your grocery order on your drive to work, but car manufacturers need to transition into service providers. Car ownership models are changing and shopping through your car’s virtual assistant will be an important revenue stream in the future. Having said that, this is the same in that Microsoft is getting with BMW using the Azure platform to run the assistant from. Microsoft will be able to use their AI services to determine what types of behavior drivers are exhibiting in the car and suggest what services BMW should look at building out. For example, if people are ordering a lot of coffee in the morning getting Starbucks on board to place coffee orders natively through the virtual assistant would be recommended.

However, this issue isn’t exclusive to BMW, all manufacturers are partnering with tech companies to fill the knowledge gap.

Microsoft has been entering into the automotive space over the last year and we’re starting to see signs of what they have been working on. We’re excited to see in-vehicle assistance get any additional boost in intelligence. As cars work towards autonomous drive the industry needs to work towards increasing the productivity of the people who will ride in them. The major benefit of self-driving cars in making the roads safer, but I often hear that this will give me more time to relax and watch Netflix. Binge watching a series should be much lower on the list of things that I’ll be able to do when my car is driving me home. This Microsoft’s virtual assistant is a step in the right direction.

Mobile Geeks was invited to attend BUILD 2019, all ideas are still our own.