The society of intelligent agents now has a new member.
His name is Ozlo, from the Palo Alto, California-based company of the same name. According to co-founder and CEO Charles Jolley, he’s the only independent intelligent agent left, now that Samsung has scooped up Viv.
But the key differentiator, Jolley told me, is that Ozlo is “the only assistant that can link together competing sources of information.”
As an example, Jolley recalled that he wanted “some steak and live music” while on a recent trip to Las Vegas. So, naturally, he asked Ozlo.
The intelligent agent, he said, “pointed me to a restaurant in [the hotel],” pulling the info about the steak from an article in Time Out magazine and about live music from TripAdvisor.
“The place was great,” he added. (See photo below.)
By contrast, he said, Google Assistant “would bring back a web link to a random article, or would read you a snippet.” (See comparison screens above.)
Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana first look at preferred sources of information as a default, Jolley said, then they look to a specified service in a given category — such as TripAdvisor for travel-related queries — and then they bring up multiple sources.
“Services are siloed,” he said, so that information in one travel service is not combined with information in another. But Ozlo is an open platform — offering what Jolley describes as “assistant neutrality” — and is designed to crawl the web, interrogate multiple services (some of which are partners), and “link them together to get the best answer.”
It’s also designed to learn about the user over time via machine learning, so it knows, for instance, that you prefer gluten-free pizza when you say you’d like to find the best nearby pizza.
In a private beta since May, Ozlo has been initially trained on restaurants, bars and recipes, and now he’s moving on to learn about movies, weather, news and over 20 million locations in the US, including state parks, nail salons, and even PokéStops. The Ozlo tech team includes veterans from Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Mozilla.
Ozlo is free as an iOS app or via the web. An Android app is planned for release by the end of the year, with versions for Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps by next year. The company’s business model calls for taking a percentage of online transactions.
Jolley said he believed intelligent agents like Ozlo will “become the dominant interface” for human-computer interaction, replacing search and eventually populating cars, TVs and many other kinds of machines and devices.
He also predicted such agents will eventually become the fronting interface for brand-specific chatbots, which might remain as standalones for specific functions like a brand’s customer service.