Sherpa, the virtual personal assistant for Android (and indirect competitor to Apple’s Siri), has launched in the UK, albeit in requisite Beta. It follows the original Spanish version released in October 2012, which has since seen it claim 400,000 downloads to become the No. 1 virtual assistant on Android in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. Meanwhile, Sherpa made its U.S. debut earlier this month.
Operating in a similar space to Cupertino’s talk-happy virtual assistant, or Samsung Ventures-backed Maluuba, which like Sherpa is also available on Android, the app uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to let users interact with their smartphones to perform various tasks and to retrieve information online and via the services it plugs into. This can be via typing, touch and, of course voice.
There’s also a machine-learning element so it gets smarter the more you use it, to the point that it can be proactive, pitching itself alongside something like Google Now.
A potential key differentiator is the ability to complete voice-enabled online transactions through a partnership with PayPal. Furthermore, the company is talking up the level at which Sherpa can understand user queries. Ten years in the making, based on founder Xabier Uribe-Etxebarria’s NLP research, it understands more than 250,000 concepts and relies on “five levels of linguistic analysis, including morphological, syntactic, semantic, pragmatic and functional.” If that went over your head, you’re not alone.
The UK version has been localised and includes regional variations for Scotland and Ireland to enable users to take advantage of the app’s features, such as searching for information, completing transactions, managing schedules and operating the device itself.
The company has raised $1.6 million in funding.