Sierra Says Conversational AI Will Kill Apps and Websites | Laptop News

I might have inadvertently insulted Bret Taylor and Clay Bavor when I interviewed them about their new AI startup last week. Their new company, Sierra, is developing AI-powered agents to “elevate the customer experience” for big companies. Among its original customers are WeightWatchers, Sonos, SiriusXM, and OluKai (a “Hawaiian-inspired” clothing company). Sierra’s eventual market is any company that communicates with its customers, which is a pretty big opportunity. Their plan strikes me as a validation of the widely voiced prediction that 2024 will be the year when the AI models that have bended our minds for the past year will turn into real products. So when I greeted these cofounders, whom I’ve known for years, I remarked that their company seems “very nuts and bolts.”

Was that the wrong thing to say? “I don’t know if that’s a compliment or criticism or just a fact,” says Taylor, who left his job as co-CEO of Salesforce to start Sierra. I assured him I saw it as more of the latter. “It’s not like you’re building girlfriends!” I noted.

It’s significant that two of the more visionary leaders in Silicon Valley are building an AI startup not to chase the nerd trophy of superintelligence but to use recent AI advances to futurize nontechnical, mainstream corporations. Their experience puts them toe to toe with better known industry luminaries; Taylor was a key developer of Google Maps in the aughts and Bavor headed Google’s VR efforts. They are eager to assure me that their hearts are still in moonshot mode. Both feel that conversational AI is an advance on par with the graphical user interface or the smartphone, and will have at least as much an impact on our lives. Sierra just happens to focus on a specific, enterprise-y aspect of…

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