Virtual Personal Assistant

By: Deepak Mahto

In the last few decades, there has been significant development in the field of artificial intelligence. Development over the decades has developed it to become a very wide field with very much potential. It not only made a lot of technological breakthroughs but also got a very wide application. It has become a part of every aspect of life, increasing people living standards and making life more comfortable. It has numerous applications but one of the most popular ones is Virtual personal assistants. It is a widely used service worldwide.

A Virtual Personal Assistant is a type of software which on instruction from the user performs the tasks and services. Not only it does various tasks efficiently but also helps in keeping the privacy of the user. The introduction of new features like voice interface only contributes to the more widespread use of a virtual personal assistant.

A common example of virtual assistants is Siri by Apple, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, etc.


Virtual Personal Assistant is the manifestation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by using data of human conversations as the basis. It uses Machine learning as well as natural language processing to process data respond to instructions given to it. Machine learning is used in software to process data and predict responses based on it. The software on basis of the scope of its work can be low level to advanced ones. Low-level ones are generally well structured and give one type of service, function, or support. They are not for sophisticated works but simple conventional tasks. It can be generally seen everywhere, like in WhatsApp, Discord, etc. Unlike these advanced ones uses their analytical and predictive capabilities to give responses based on users’ data available to them. They provide a solution, response, or recommendations based on users’ preferences and previously made choices. Alexa, Siri, Google assistant are prominent examples.


Early devices that work on voice commands can be seen in the 1950s. The first idea of virtual personal assistants came in 1996 from Anastacia Brice. Through various Virtual personal assistants can be seen in the last century, the first modern virtual personal assistant was developed by Apple for iPhone 4S. The modern virtual personal assistant refers to software with features of current standards. It is currently day one of the most popular virtual personal assistant Siri. It was launched on 4 October 2011. Following this many new and popular virtual assistant was introduced like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. They provided many convenient and advance features for devices like a smartphone. These not only developed the artificial intelligence field but also took these devices to another level.


The working of Virtual personal assistants can be divided into four entity terminals: user, interaction, cloud, and back-end (figure 1).

User entity referred to the giving of command by the user. The user can be anyone here. The command is taken by the virtual assistant. It can be done through a speech recognition service.  Following this, the device takes the command as input. These devices are interaction entities. They help users in interacting with the cloud. They receive command and response and take care of incoming and outgoing data streams from the cloud. An example of this can be a smartphone.

Once the command is formed the interaction entity sends it to the cloud entity. Simple and basic commands are done by the device itself. However complex things require the help of the cloud. They need to access users’ data to form a response for the command. The last entity, the back-end entity refers to developers. They need to write algorithms towards given users’ commands. The complex commands have the cloud take data to the back-end entity to form a response to the command.

Virtual personal assistant
Figure 1: Virtual personal assistant working

Features, Services, and Use

A Wake word refers to a keyword or phrase needed to activate the voice assistant device, though there are also other ways to open it. Speech recognition is needed for the device to input a user command. Natural language understanding is needed to transcript user input to more effectively understand the request and give an efficient solution. Text to Speech provides output from the device whereas the dialogue manager handles conversation with the user.

They help us in providing information, starting streaming services, assisting in interactions. Also, they provide third-party services, customer services and use bots for messaging services

Security and Privacy Concerns

The virtual personal assistant has become widespread, as a consequence security and privacy issues arise. The main concern is about the data of the user. Virtual assistant uses data of users to run the software. As a consequence, a large amount of data, either personal or associated with use is stored in companies.

This is a serious concern to users as well as developers and manufacturers. These data not only are susceptible to leaks, but also from malicious attacks of hackers. Also, since data is stored in an unencrypted form it’s more likely to be shared with a third party in an unauthorized manner.

Another concern is the malicious use of the software by imitating voice commands. One can gain unauthorized access to the device through imitated voice.

Future Scope

Along with the development of the whole Artificial intelligence field, Virtual assistants are also developing. To provide users’ better experience, capabilities and services virtual assistant is evolving. Along with new technological advances, all of its features are upgrading.

With voice recognition and natural language processing evolving, the virtual assistant makes its responses more accurate. Additionally with more data available with the passing day of users’ more personalized work can be done by the virtual assistant. Present-day technological giants like Google, Amazon, Apple bring new features like multiple actions, find my phone, etc. The virtual assistant insight of these software seems to reach a very high level.

Its potential and future are very big. It can expand its field of usage on all fields and with more convenient features it is likely to see everywhere in near future. Gartner, a global research company, predicts that, by 2023, 25% of employee interactions will be voice-based communications. By 2025, it predicts that 50% of knowledge workers will use a virtual assistant daily, up from 2% in 2019.


  1. Article ‘virtual assistant (AI assistant)’ by Bridget Botelho
  2. Blog on ‘Virtual Assistant for your voice and work’ by Sai Kiran Karampudi.
  3. Article on ‘the Security and Privacy Challenges of Virtual Assistants’ by Tom Bolton
  4. Blog on ‘Brace Yourself for an Explosion of Virtual Assistants’ by Anthony J. Bradley.

Cite this article as

Deepak Mahto (2021) Virtual Personal Assistant, Insights2Techinfo, pp.1

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