Video on Anna

The video you see above is of Anna Assistant a virtual assistant for google
chrome which i had been working on with a couple of people for the past few
months.

How it all started ?

Anna was nothing more than a hack made in 17 hours for a hackathon in college
organised at the end of October 2017.

Idea

Being a Linux user, I was always in a search of good virtual assistant which I
could actually play with every time. The once I found were giving me a hard time
to install and always ended up making my life miserable for a couple of days.

Thus my search for a good virtual assistant was even more than my search for a
girlfriend.

So because of this only, when the time to decide what to make for hackathon we
decided to make an assistant ourselves which could fulfill. Thus I and my team
ended up deciding to make a virtual assistant for Linux. But the sad truth we
soon realised was that we won’t be able to show our assistant to family and
normal friends (yaa, because 4 years of engineering makes you insane) as they
are not familiar with the Linux world.

So the very next thought was why not to make a chrome extension. This idea was
sounding good as by doing this we could end up covering all platforms and could
fulfill most of the needs of a user by just using chrome browser. Further
considering the fact that chrome is one of the most widely and easy to use
browser we decided to start hacking it.

The Hack

So now we were having an awesome idea, a motivation to make but the question was
how to make?

This is and will always stay the hardest part of any hack, to decide what to
use.

After considering a lot of options and finding their shortcomings we decided
that we will do something like taking the voice from the user, convert it to
text and then write If conditions.

But it was a very bad idea. 😃 😺

So after further thinking, we decided that we will put AI/NLP in the part where
it gets to decide if conditions. As of how can you even think to win a hackathon
by just writing if conditions for 17 hours.

Then came the dialogflow/api.ai into play. So now we had a plan something like
this:

Speech -> Text -> dialogflow -> actions triggered by API’s

Then hacking began

In the end, we were able to implement a decent hack, though having very minimal
features such as opening websites, playing songs from YouTube, writing an email,
tweeting etc. Demo video of the Hack on
Youtube

Demo video of hack.

It was a decent hack. Not the best and we got third. I was like okay 😿

The decision

Till this time everything I made in my life, just went on GitHub and stayed on
my not at all visited by anyone GitHub account.

But this time, I wanted to make something which I can ship. So I decided to
feature it on chrome web store and show it to the world.

If you are an Indian you could easily relate to the pain of putting something on
Chrome web store. Not due to the cash, but because you need a credit card. Yes,
they don’t accept Indian Debit cards. This made me roam around and go to all my
friends to get one.

Me and Chrome web store paying

So finally i put it on Chrome web
store
.

Accidental Fame

Being a bit excited about it I showed it to a couple of my friends and also made
a lame Facebook post which few people liked. But yes it was just a one day show
and soon ended.

I thought it was over, but after a couple of weeks when one day I was looking at
the number of downloads I realised that they went suddenly high. Being curious
about it, after checking Google analytics I discovered that traffic was coming
from this blog.

http://techpp.com/2017/11/10/anna-assistant-voice-assistant-chrome/


One of the first articles about anna

Soon I realized that a lot of blogs are written about Anna and even Anna is
being said to be Siri or Cortana of Chrome. For a college kid having nothing
being featured anywhere, it was a big thing.

But now I started feeling bad about our logo. It was crap. It was something I
just ended up making in two minutes. And I was not even having proper posters to
put on Chrome web store. Only thing I had was a video explaining its features
that was made for demo purpose during the hackathon.

So i decided to work on it for a couple more weeks.

Open Source Development

The code was open sourced from the very beginning. I decided to enter into a
month of coding Open Source event with Anna which was known as KWOC. With the
help of 2–3 contributors who started showing interest in Anna we improved its
functionalities and made Anna a more handy extension.

Presently it is having more than 20 different functionalities, reverse search
being my personal favorite. Could also be seen in the promotional video
attached(The First video).


Actions that Anna can do now

The best part about Anna is that it works in the background thus giving no
random animations or pop-ups. But soon we realised that it should have a status
icon or something so that user can know if it is working or not. So we decided
to add a very minimal and small status icon which could be easily enabled or
disabled by the user.

Branding

So with Anna gaining popularity, one day when I was at my friend’s house we
decided to give our assistant a completely new look and started branding Anna
from head to toe. With this Anna got a new logo and became more like a real
voice assistant.


Anna’s new logo

We decided to go with elephant as Anna’s logo. Since Anna means Elephant in
Malayalam. And i wanted have the logo like an emoji. 🐘

Product hunt release of Anna

One of the milestones in Anna’s achievements was its release on Product Hunt.
Soon it became the third product of the day with 327 upvotes.

It went from a project that could be made by anybody in a couple of hours to a
project that is actually a Product.

I wasn’t even having a proper product hunt account at the time I released it
there. You need to do some tasks to be able to ship products on product hunt.
The only time I visited product hunt before this was when one of my friends
asked me to upvote his product on product hunt.

Now I realize how amazing it was to put Anna on product hunt. After this, more
and more blogs and articles were written on Anna and Anna got new users. My
inbox was now filled with mails about Anna and it was really so satisfying to
see that people were showing interest in it.

Finally, after being the 3rd product of the day on product hunt I saw this tweet
by the product hunt itself.😃 Though Anna has a lot of tweets, still this is my
favourite.


The Best tweet i ever had

Some blog posts about Anna

Even without much marketing, Anna is able to secure a place in 10 + blogs all
being organic.Some of the articles about Anna are:

https://www.maketecheasier.com/software/anna-assistant/

http://newsdog.today/a/article/5a0ea04a12313a00a340966a/?d=false

http://techpp.com/2017/11/10/anna-assistant-voice-assistant-chrome/?ref=producthunt

http://latestversionplugin.com/anna-assistant-google-chrome/

Even featured in other languages such as urdu

https://www.urdupoint.com/technology/detail/applications-and-extensions/anna-assistant-%E2%80%93-your-personal-assistant-on-google-chrome-5235.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGwDLcLavK0

As what else could be better for promoting Anna than the online platform twitter
itself. Thus Anna has an active twitter handle to tell the world about what it
can do and what people are saying about it.


Twitter account

Future

We are planning to make Anna for Firefox also. Work in this direction has
already been started it is just we cannot realise it completely due to lack of
support by Mozilla in voice recognition. I guess, it will hardly take one or two
more months to get resolved.

Thank you

Thank you for reading this. After doing this i learned two things:

  1. Always ship; don’t think too much.
  2. Make a product; hacks are just for fun.

With this, I decided to make more and more products so that I could look at them
and proudly say that this is made by me and also get a new topic to write a blog
on.😃 ⛅️

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Gautham Santhosh