New Siri-Like Service for Android Launches

Magnifis, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based provider of speech interfaces, machine learning, and location-based services, has launched Robin, a voice-enabled personal assitant, for Android phones. The product is available in beta testing across the United States.

Robin is designed with drivers in mind, aiming to provide them with relevant information, guidance, and content via a natural voice and gesture interface. Its dialogue engine allows a natural and smooth conversation flow, always keeping track of the implied context. Starting a dialogue is as easy as "waving hello" in front of the phone's screen, so one never has to look away from the road.

Robin offers features such as local search (including Yelp reviews), navigation, real-time traffic and parking information, gas prices, weather and more. And for those getting bored behind the wheel, Robin can narrate personal Twitter news (with more content reportedly coming soon) and even tell jokes.

According to Magnifis, these are just the first steps. Robin is poised to emerge as a very personal assistant that becomes increasingly helpful as she gets to know her "master" better. For instance, Robin will be able to proactively alert drivers about traffic or speed cameras based on her knowledge of one's schedule and driving patterns. And the two-way communication will make it easy for drivers to share information. Robin will also serve as "personalized radio," narrating relevant news aggregated from a variety of sources and even learn the individual's taste in jokes.

"Today, people still think of a car assistant primarily in terms of navigation," said Magnifis co-founder and CEO Ilya Eckstein in a statement. "But in fact, we don't use navigation much, as most of the time we know our way around. What we really need in the car is someone to watch out for us as we go and be there when we need... well, just about anything. That, and being able to remain fully connected and empowered behind the wheel. To not miss out on a single important bit of life, even when you are not staring at the screen. And that is exactly what Robin is meant to help us with."

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