Meet Siri’s relative Lola, she’s smarter and likes banking

So you’re an iPhone 4S user. Your love for Apple’s voice assistant Siri obviously knows no bounds. You’d never cheat on her right? What if we introduced you to her more intelligent, financially savvy cousin?

Her name’s Lola and Spain’s second largest bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) reckons she could save it a ton in staffing costs.

The voice assistant was built by the team behind Siri and, according to Technology Review, she can handle some pretty complex tasks.

For instance, if you ask “what’s the interest on my loan?” she’ll be able to give you the answer (either via text or speech). But if you follow this up with “sorry, I meant my mortgage”, she’ll pick up the context and give you the information you were looking for.

The service is going to be tested out on the website of BBVA’s American subsidiary BBVA Compass. The bank commissioned the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) to build Lola. It was in the nonprofit institute’s halls that Siri was first conceived before being spun off as the independent company that was bought by Apple.

“We see this as the next generation of personal assistant—we think of Siri as the first generation,” says the SRI’s William Mark who worked on Lola.

If Siri’s anything to go by, Lola should be a lot sleeker than the current crop of automated bank assistant services.

If things go well in the trial period, says BBVA’s director of innovation Beatriz Lara, then the bank will roll it out on a much wider basis:

“The next step for Lola is commercial service in the US, and then maybe Spain—and you will one day see Lola on the Internet, and in ATMs, and on mobile,”

Daniel Hong, of tech research company Ovum, reckons that technologies like Lola could have a really big impact in emerging market countries:

“In the emerging economies, businesses are more in customer acquisition mode, and that’s where automated systems are most valuable,” he told Technology Review.

One thing we can’t hide from is that this is going to open up the jobs versus tech debate. Then again, if emerging markets super angel investor Fabrice Grinda is to be believed, tech always creates more jobs than it destroys.



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