'Her' style advanced voice assistants could be just a year away

'Member Foursquare? 'Member Scarlett Johansson's voice in Spike Jonze's 2013 Oscar nominated movie Her? While you don't necessarily associate the two right now, that could all change next year if Foursquare's voice assistant plans come to fruition.

Speaking on the latest Recode Decode podcast, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley revealed that the veteran location-based app makers are working on a voice assistant that, just as in Spike Jonze's movie, could understand language so well as to hold a natural conversation with a user.

"Imagine a friend is walking alongside you. Can we make a personality like that, that talks to you in that sense?" said Crowley.

"It’s not 30 years out. We’re going to be playing with this stuff a year from now. I want to make that Scarlett Johansson that whispers in your ear, but it’s all about local places and local discovery. I want to replicate the experience of walking through the city with a friend that knows the city inside and out, and I want to make that for millions of people."

Siri-ous business

It's big talk from a company that has not only seen its main product slip from the public's attention, but one that's also not immediately associated with voice assistants.

But Foursquare has actually been quietly moving into the voice assistant space in recent times. Back in October it released an invite-only beta app called Marsbot. Though restricted currently to users in New York and San Francisco, it learns a user's dining habits (Foursquare's long-standing area of expertise) and offers voice-controlled suggestions on where to eat next in return.

Foursquare's nascent efforts face stiff competition, with Amazon's Alexa sitting pretty in the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, Apple's Siri having sewn up iOS and Mac platforms, Google rocking its new Assistant and Windows served by Cortana. See how each performs in the video below.

Foursquare also has had some serious security problems of late, with reports (which the company refutes) that some 22 million of its user accounts were stolen by hackers. 

Talk of a sci-fi voice assistant is just the kind of positive PR it needs right now.

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.