Search on mobile can be a major pain. To start, the keyboard is small. Then there are the load times. Have you ever stared at your 4G smartphone screen and wondered in disbelief how only one bar of 3G was possible in San Francisco – in the country that put the first man on the Moon? How often have you longed for your laptop to be able to “search properly”?
Sergey Brin once said that when they started Google their vision was that, “Eventually you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all. You’d just have the information come to you as you needed it.” That hasn’t quite happened yet, but Ulli, claiming to be the “first intelligent browser,” promises to bring search nirvana a step closer, requiring no typing or actual “searching” at all (in the traditional sense).
Here’s how Ulli could become the mobile equivalent of your search fairy godmother – as you may suspect from the analogy, magic wands are involved:
- You’re reading about a movie that you probably want to see. Without leaving the page, you just touch the “magic wand” button.
- The links that you are mostly likely to want appear, and one more touch will put you in front of an interface through which you can buy tickets.
- When your ticket payment on Fandango is confirmed, another touch of the magic wand will bring up a new selection of choices, like save to calendar, directions to the theater, requesting a ride or finding a restaurant. Select the restaurant link and all those that are near the movie theater will pop up on your screen.
No more navigating backwards and forwards between multiple screens. No more waiting for pages to re-load.
Here are some more possible use cases:
- You’ve decided to upgrade your phone, and you’re browsing trying to decide whether to go for the Samsung Galaxy S7 or the very pretty Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. A touch of the magic wand will get you reviews, recommendations to buy online or directions to the closest store to try the product before you buy it.
- Checking out your favorite rock star, you can access their Wikipedia biographies, related articles and then with one touch book tickets to their next show.
- While watching a music video on YouTube that thing happens when you either can’t hear or can’t remember the lyrics, and you just have to look them up so that you can share with the perfect comment on Facebook…well now finding the lyrics will be a snap, just like buying the music on iTunes.
How Does the Magic Happen?
“The Internet was built around websites, not people.” says Baptiste Parravicini from Biggerpan, the company behind Ulli. “Ulli reorganizes the web around you and what you are interested in.”
So, how does this work?
According to Eric Poindessault, the Founder and CEO of Biggerpan, “Ulli is the first AI powered web browser for mobile. When you load a web page in Ulli, the browser asks Biggerpan’s natural language processing API to analyze the page in real time and determine what content and actions are the most relevant based on the topics and the entities found on that page.”
Eric continues, “Ulli leverages your browsing context using predictive intelligence and machine learning to recommend the most relevant content and actions at the very moment you need them. Ulli anticipates your needs and removes the frictions from browsing. Google indexed the Web so you could search, Biggerpan navigates you through it so you don’t have to. Simply put, we’re building a brain for the Web.”
Where does Ulli fit in Horizontal vs Vertical AI?
In a previous article for SnapMunk, called Democratizing The Personal Assistant With Artificial Intelligence, I wrote about possible future interactions between Horizontal AI (Siri, Cortana, Alexa) that could be considered “multi-purpose tools,” and Vertical AI such as x.ai’s Amy that is designed to do limited specific tasks – in the case of x.ai, scheduling.
With Biggerpan’s predictive AI browser now in beta, I asked Eric Poindessault how Ulli would fit in a Horizontal vs Vertical AI landscape. He replied,
“According to x.ai CEO Dennis Mortensen, Vertical AIs are programmed to do one job and tend to be very good at it, while Horizontal AIs like Siri or Cortana are multi-purpose tools that perform simpler tasks. Ulli is at the crossroads of both AIs: it focuses on one vertical – Web navigation – while offering a personalized assistance in very different situations, thus reaching deeper levels to better guide the users in every compartments of their lives.”
As Vertical and Horizontal AIs proliferate, a key to consumer success and adoption is going to be how early on and how nicely they learn to play with each other. As an early adopter I’m looking forward to trying Ulli. As a user who has come to depend on her vertical AI for scheduling, I’d love it if x.ai’s Amy and Ulli became BFFs sooner rather than later.
Biggerpan was selected by TechCrunch to present Ulli at the 2016 Crunchies as Best Of #StartupAlley and is currently accepting users for their closed beta phase.
Gail is a Chicago-based food scientist who writes for leading US and European food and technology publications. A devotee of all things shiny, electronic and buzzing, with a passion for building on-line communities and conservation, she is an entrepreneur and founder of a sustainability and social media startup who moonlights on weekends as DJ Moongirl on Moonalice Radio. Clients range from rock bands and media companies to high-tech startups.