Apple’s Siri remains the face of voice-activated personal assistants, while Google is trying to pose a challenge with Google Now for Jelly Bean devices. But a new competitor called Maluuba is trying to squeeze into the race with what it calls a “do-engine” that takes some of the best of both Apple and Google.
Maluuba, available on Android , allows the use of natural language commands to ask questions and create tasks without having to phrase those orders in a special way. Maluuba doesn’t respond with its own voice, but it makes up for that by connecting to 18 different services for answers and actions. Users can ask general web queries, set up calendar appointments, post to Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare, get info on local movies, restaurants or businesses and get directions.
The secret to Maluuba is that it relies on some very sophisticated natural language processing that uses a statistical base model, which is helpful in handling a number of different sectors. Maluuba then connects to a broad number of services through their APIs, allowing the app to not just produce search results but complete actions on behalf of the user. Google Calendar, Rotten Tomatoes, Wolfram Alpha, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Weather Underground and Wikipedia are some of the APIs that Maluuba can access.
This approach, said co-founder Sam Pasupalak, allows Maluuba to expand to more domains faster than Siri and connects it to services like Facebook that Google might avoid for competitive reasons.
“Apple’s goal is to create the user experience on their phone but we want to connect to as many APIs as possible,” said Pasupalak. “In the future, the web won’t be a mash of links but APIs.”
Maluuba officially launched last week and is now rolling out a minor update Thursday that features a widget so users can start queries from their home page. That’s great for getting into the service faster without having to fire up the app.
Maluuba began as a project between three University of Waterloo students and in February it raised $ 2 million from Samsung Ventures. The company is now trying to expand to more topics to take on more actions for users. And it’s planning its own SDK to welcome other developers who want to integrate with Maluuba.
The market is full of Siri wannabes trying to one-up Apple. But Maluuba shows a lot of promise in the time I’ve played with it. It’s got a very clean experience and can handle a whole lot of actions. And Maluuba should only get smarter as it plugs in more APIs. It doesn’t have the Slick presentation of Siri or Google Now’s ability to anticipate what information you’ll need ahead of time. But it’s a solid personal assistant that can give both the services a little run for their money.