The Apple Watch isn't just a dumb screen for parroting the notifications that come to your iPhone--or it doesn't have to be, anyway. On Tuesday, Fetch announced an integration with MindMeld's artificial intelligence technology to better interpret on-demand voice requests on its Apple Watch app. This partnership makes Fetch, an on-demand personal shopping service, the first third-party AI-powered app for the Apple Watch.
For a $10 monthly subscription, Fetch users can send a text, photo, or voice command to have a real person (or concierge) assist them with buying specific products, booking plane tickets, making dinner reservations, or even paying for parking tickets. Now Fetch, available on Apple Watch, iOS and Android, will incorporate MindMeld's technology to better analyze each user's individual request and meet their demands faster.
"Fetch wanted to interpret their user's requests with intelligence and intuition," said Tim Tuttle, CEO and founder of Expect Labs, the company behind the MindMeld platform. "The AI can understand the meaning behind the request and dispatch it to the [appropriate human concierge]."
The impact on you: For example, if a Fetch user says he'd like to purchase a flight to New York City on Sunday morning, MindMeld's AI is able to identify the call-to-action (purchase), as well as the different categories involved in the request (flight, to NYC, on Sunday morning). The artificial intelligence can then use this information to provide the human concierge with a list of 10 viable options to fulfill the request. In this case, that'd be a list of flight itineraries that meet the criteria. The human concierge can then choose the most appropriate option out of the 10 to send back to the Fetch user and quickly move on to the next request.
The future of mobile shopping: voice requests & advanced AI
According to MindMeld's data, people spend 60 percent of their time online on a mobile device, whether a smartphone or a wearable like the Apple Watch. However only 10 percent of purchases are made from mobile devices. Tuttle accounts this discrepancy to the fact that shopping on mobile can be a tedious process, and believes that intelligent voice recognition with AI-assisted interpretation can make the process more natural for consumers.
First launched during TechCrunch Disrupt in 2014, Fetch is part of a new ecosystem of apps offering on-demand services (think Uber, Postmates, and Instacart). Silicon Valley investors have been eager to get these app off the ground, but according to Tuttle, one of the main deterring factors is that on-demand apps are often not very scalable.
"It'd be very expensive for everyone in the world to have a personal concierge," Tuttle said. "But with AI it makes it possible." Tuttle said that Fetch is the first Apple Watch app to utilize the MindMeld's "Siri on steroids" technology, but the company has worked with over 1,400 app-makers and services, including Google and Samsung.
Tuttle believes that in five to 10 years, the same AI that is now dissecting Fetch's voice requests will have "learned" from fulfilling enough requests that it will be be able to analyze open-ended questions without the need for a human concierge to supervise its actions. It's not difficult to imagine that in the near future our Apple Watches will become fully-functioning AI assistants: restocking our fridge via Instacart before we even realize we're running out of groceries, for example, or booking a flight right before prices skyrocket during holidays.