Apple’s Siri understands when you give it voice commands about what to do on your phone. Google’s Google Now anticipates what you might want to look up based on observing your habits. Sherpa Next is a personal assistant that uses natural language processing and prediction to try to figure out a way to combine those two functions.
The problem, though, is that Sherpa Next is made by a little startup, not built into one of the world’s leading smartphone operating systems. Sherpa is based in Bilbao, Spain, and has $2.2 million in funding and 11 employees.
Sherpa Next is an app that will do things like proactively recommend nearby restaurants you’ll like, learn from frequent searches to create a custom home screen, perform more detailed tasks like looking up your Twitter mentions and posting status messages to Facebook, and create little dossiers to respond to searches on people, places and things.
A limited test version of the app has been downloaded one million times and is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google Play. When the full version launches it will, at first, be Android-only, in Spanish and English.
Along with other apps and launchers like Everything.me, Cover (bought by Twitter) and Friday — all designed for the relatively flexible Android environment — Sherpa aims to make phones more personalized to their owners. It’s more focused on search than the others.
These startups are all doing smart and interesting things that cut through the overly appified world to help phones actually learn from their awareness of an individual person’s context.
But again, it’s awfully hard for apps like Sherpa Next to get distribution and to be as deeply part of a phone experience as something that’s built in out of the box.