The Real Problem with Digital Assistants


Business people all had real assistants, people who helped them. Now, on our mobile devices, we all have digital assistants (i.e. Siri, Alexa, S-Voice etc.) on our mobile devices. They’ve become the virtual assistants of those once vital Girl Friday.

In some ways, it’s an idea whose time has come. Back in the days, we weren’t sending emails. We weren’t writing Word documents. We weren’t copying and pasting documents. Computers changed everything… Now, we work electronically.

Today, having a stenographer show up to do our documents in shorthand in the office wouldn’t make sense. Carbon paper was a big mess, and no one misses those blue or black sheets. As personal computers took over the office, it’s totally understandable that Girl Siri, or Girl Alexa, or Girl S-Voice showed up to take up the slack.

However, the electronic digital assistants on our mobile devices have some limitations as well. They are just some software running in this small mobile device. And, in truth, people relate better to other people than they do to software. It would be better if we could have a digital assistant that could appear looking like a favorite movie star, a handsome stranger, or even a doppelganger. It would be better if they understood the context of everything without us telling it. It would be better if it could proactively look at our calendar and daily habits and anticipate our needs as another person might.

BonziBuddy promotional

Humans would connect much better with such avatars than a software interface. I know because of my experience with BonziBuddy, a spyware that accidentally came into my Microsoft Windows computer back in 2001. Even though it was a spyware I let it live, because it was a purple gorilla that was fun. My friends ended up playing with the BonziBuddy. They would poke it, punch it, or write something to it and the purple gorilla would respond in a funny way. We knew it was software but it was engaging and funny anyway. Even later, when I would call those friends, they would inquire about my BonziBuddy as if it were a real pet.

BonziBuddy promotional logo


BonziBuddy actually followed the concept of the Microsoft Office Assistant, the character named Clippy that would wake up and ask if you needed help. It was cool because it built an emotional connection with humans.

Here’s a list of must have characteristics for a truly wonderful digital assistant:

  • It would have to be someone to whom I could relate, perhaps a hologram.
  • I would be able to issue commands and always be understood.
  • It would jump across all of my mobile devices independent of operating system.
  • It would remember my context and independently remind me of things based on that context.
  • It would use context to identify, flag, and highlight critically important tasks proactively.
  • It would get more intelligent daily through artificial intelligence.

I would respond better. I think anyone would. Imagine having a similar assistant for your supply chain system or your warehouse management system (WMS). Have you a need for such systems? Would that make your life easier? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Puga Sankara
Puga Sankara is the co-founder of Smart Gladiator LLC. Smart Gladiator designs, builds, and delivers market-leading mobile technology for retailers, distributors, and 3PL service providers. So far, Smart Gladiator Wearables have been used to ship, receive, and scan more than 50 million boxes. Users love them for the lightweight, easy-to-use soft overlay keyboard and video chatting ability, data collection ability etc. Puga is a supply chain technology professional with more than 17 years of experience in deploying capabilities in the logistics and supply chain domain. His prior roles involved managing complicated mission-critical programs driving revenue numbers, rolling out a multitude of capabilities involving more than a dozen systems, and managing a team of 30 to 50 personnel across multiple disciplines and departments in large corporations such as Hewlett Packard. He has deployed WMS for more than 30 distribution centers in his role as a senior manager with Manhattan Associates. He has also performed process analysis walk-throughs for more than 50 distribution centers for WMS process design and performance analysis review, optimizing processes for better productivity and visibility through the supply chain. Size of these DCs varied from 150,000 to 1.2 million SQFT. Puga Sankara has an MBA from Georgia Tech. He can be reached at or visit the company at Also follow him at
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