Help from Cortana

I’ve been reading about and watching some of the experiments that people are conducting with Cortana and other types of devices. I’m not quite sure what I think, though I would like to experiment with Cortana at some point and see how useful a computer assistant might be. I have tried to make notes of ideas that I think could be helpful, but for some reason I haven’t really gotten the speech bug. I don’t talk to my computer or phone very often, with the exception being texting with my family while driving. In that case, speech is handy and much safer than anything else. My wife is the opposite; she really likes speech.

It seems many companies have been working to implement more assistant-like interactions with users. Amazon has the Echo and Dot devices with Alexa, Google has the Home speaker, and I’m sure more and more devices are coming over time. I don’t know how useful these are in multi-person situations where people are speaking, but it does seem that some people like the help from devices. Perhaps I’m too much of a DYI person, since I prefer to push buttons and make my own selections. However, it seems some people prefer to talk, even in busy, loud, crowded situations.

Many of us are data professionals, and even if we aren’t planning on using speech, there is the possibility that bots or other technologies might help us improve the way we work with databases or help our customers use the information we manage. I’ve seen some interesting interactions with Slack, including one company that allows limited developer access to systems through a Slack bot that handles some provisioning work, including raising and closing a ticket, without requiring human interactions.

I could even see some sort of alerting or “check this soon” interactions that might alert developers or administrators to take actions in a more casual way, perhaps doing so as part of a conversational queue of things to check rather than a list of items in a tool or a stack of email messages. An interactive assistant can be useful not only in providing information, but managing the flow to prevent overload. A personalized assistant might even do a better job or reminding you of items over time, perhaps anticipating future needs, or realizing some task hasn’t been completed in some time. Certainly the same type of bot or agent might perform work on your behalf.

This week, I’m wondering how many of you might find ways that a narrow, niche assistant might help you. Is there something in your work that an assistant might help you do? Or maybe there’s some way that a device might help you in your life, separately from a simple notification on your mobile or through email. Perhaps in conversation or in a semi-structured fashion. I’m sure many of you have a creative way that you might like to see technology assist you.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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Editor, SQLServerCentral
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