How does Olly the Robot differ from other Virtual Personal Assistants (VPA)?

The majority of VPAs currently on the market will provide the same answers to common questions. Olly however has his own personality and learns from its owner. After a while, Olly predicts patterns of human behaviour so that you no longer need to give it the same daily commands. Instead, Olly will learn which radio station to play at breakfast, or how cool you need the room temperature to be to perform yoga. He will also provide prompts and suggestions to help you reach your goals.

One of the key human ingredients is mood. Can Olly detect mood?

It is certainly something we’re working on. Olly has an in-built camera, which allows us to evolve his capabilities from voice recognition to recognising facial expressions. The right combination of machine learning and machine vision will add an extra dimension of tonal awareness.

Emotech is based in the UK. Why have you chosen London as your base?

We have a 30-strong team that speaks 22 different languages so we’re global by nature. However, the UK is far advanced in artificial intelligence and the research that is coming out of educational establishments such as Edinburgh University and Imperial College London is the best in the world.

In the future, will robots steal our jobs?

Sometimes I wish Olly would go out to work so that I could stay home and shop online. Seriously though, some jobs have already been improved by AI and robotics so it’s not so much about what jobs will go but more about how this technology will improve productivity, society and the options for how we want to live our lives. At this moment in time, Olly learns from its human owner but in the future, robots will learn from each other, before we begin to learn from them. The beauty of this technology is that there is no limitations on how much they can learn.

What is the short-term future for VPAs?

The hardware has already come a long way but now we need brands to collaborate with the software and make the home as smart as Olly. Then, everything needs to merge and connect so that our smart homes, transport and cities are all inter-connected and can feed into Olly’s knowledge of the world and how to assist us.