Saga takes on Siri and Google Now in mobile context

Jul 31, 2012
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Siri, Google Now and other digital personal assistants have a new rival in the shape of Saga, a mobile app that uses learns from users to provide contextual help, suggestions and more. A free app, currently iPhone-only, Saga pulls in data from Facebook, Twitter and other apps to build an understanding of the individual user, and then crunches that with schedules and preferences to produce suggestions as to nearby restaurants, when would be a good time in the day to run, where friends are (and who users might actually like to hang out with), and other recommendations. However, Saga's future is most definitely in wearables like Google's Glass.

That will see Saga provide its own contextual suggestions in a far more intuitive and non-distracting way: popping dialogs into the corner of your eye rather than demanding that you pull out your phone. Context - or the lack of it - in the mobile world has been a running theme for several years but still something manufacturers and developers have struggled to implement, but as the number of sensors and data sources with shared personal information grow, apps like Saga promise to pull them altogether.

Initial partnerships for Saga include Runkeeper, which can provide fitness exercise patterns to the assistant app. For instance, if Saga knows from Runkeeper that a user normally runs each Tuesday, but that they haven't so far today, it will automatically look for a suitable timeslot in the agenda and ping up a prompt to encourage them.

Future iterations of the app will allow users to share recommendations back and forth within a sub-group of their social networks, and increase the number of notifications. Currently, Saga requires users to open the app itself to see suggestions, but as the algorithms improve the company plans to push out personalized prompts. App developers will also be able to use Saga's APIs to feed their data into the service.

Robert Scoble sat down with CEO Andy Hickl to talk Saga and mobile context, as well as what implications the app might have for wearable devices and augmented reality. "If you sign in with Facebook we understand a little bit about you, we can understand your birthday, the name of your spouse ... the other cool thing is what can we tell if we understand a little about your patterns, where you go" Hickl says.

"So f I see you at a bar at 11:30 on a Tuesday night maybe a mile and a half away from your house, what can I tell about you? Well, I can tell maybe you've got no children waiting for you at home ... the fun thing is that we use that, not to profile you, but to be able to anticipate the queries you might have."

The app is currently iPhone-only, though with an Android version expected in August, and is a free download. As for how Saga will make money, right now there's no monetization but possibilities include paid app functionality or sponsored results.


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