A virtual assistant is a software intended to free the user from routine tasks in accessing information or using a software application.
Implemented in Office it uses baleysian algorithms to advise the user. But they found it very intrusive and annoying in Office 2007 and it was replaced by a conventional aide.
Clippit, commonly known as Clippy was represented by a figure which appeared by itself in the software when the user performs actions, to suggest any particular bahavior. The icon could be a robot, a cat, a dog, a wizard.
In fact he was ridiculed in videos and television series. The Smithsonian Magazine described it as the worst program devised in the annals of computing.
The DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), however invested 150 million dollars to develop a similar project, CALO (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes). 60 universities and research organizations are involved.
The result of this research is a virtual assistant who can sort emails, give them a priority and make summaries. It can also prepare to appointments by writing notes.
CALO has the ability to learn, while remaining invisible and can even transfer learning from one area to another.
SRI International is the agency primarily responsible to the CALO project.
It is another tool based on social networks to help organize contacts based on expertise of people. It can help to preserve his health by helping to make decisions to protect it or treat it.
Applications on mobile devices
Siri is an application for iPhone derived from CALO. It does not act itself, but responds to requests from the user that express them in sentences. Thus it replaces a search engine to produces a directly usable result rather than a list of links.
He does things like finding a flight for such purpose, taking into account the time, and provides various measures of that kind.