Yoky Matsuoka is known for her pioneering work in neurorobotics, where she assists humans by connecting the central nervous system to the central processing unit. But even in the emerging era of artificial intelligence and robotics, her new adventure shows that human assistants can still play a key role.
Sorry, Alexa, you haven’t arrived yet.
The former Google and Apple technology leader won the MacArthur Genius Award in 2007 as a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. A new personal assistant service for $149 per month called YohanaThe service matches each subscriber with a living, breathing person, called “Yo Assistant”, whose job is to help them remove items from their to-do list.
Yohana, an independent subsidiary of Panasonic founded and led by Matsuoka, will publicly launch its services for the first time on Thursday, specifically launching in the Seattle area.
“This may not be the robot you think I might build,” Matsuoka admitted, smiling after revealing the plan in a recent video chat with GeekWire. “We will get there.”
But please don’t get me wrong, this is still a technical adventure. In addition to the applications and services provided to subscribers, Yohana also attaches great importance to developing behind-the-scenes technical tools and data repositories to make personal assistants a “superman”, as Matsuoka said.
The technology is designed to help each personal assistant use the work experience and insights of others when dealing with common tasks on behalf of different Yohana members.
The company said that Yo Assistants is composed of contractors and employees, and will be supported by a network of internal researchers, subject matter experts, and service providers. The monthly membership fee includes the cost of the personal assistant. The member will bear the additional cost of any services arranged by the assistant through an external supplier.
Yohana will compete with a range of personal assistant services and freelance markets, from established companies such as Time and Upwork to smaller local suppliers.
Its focus on behind-the-scenes technology is Yohana’s way of seeking differentiation. The company also offers unlimited personal assistant services, while competitors charge based on the number of hours the assistant works with the subscriber.
The goal is to help busy parents and families get rid of the heavy work of planning a vacation, finding a dog groomer, arranging doctor appointments, setting up electrical repairs, coordinating home renovations, or any one of a million other things. What parents need to do. It is specially developed for mothers, although it is by no means limited to them.
Yohana is headquartered in Palo Alto, California, and had more than 100 employees in August.
Matsuoka will continue to live in the Bay Area, but Yohana’s launch in Seattle is still a homecoming, allowing her to reconnect with the city, where she made some of the biggest breakthroughs, including advanced machinery designed to help people with disabilities hand.
She said that after extensive research, the company chose Seattle as its start-up market because of the growing number of tech-savvy professionals, frequent cross-pollination with the Bay Area, and shared time zones. Waiting list Can be used in other cities.
Yohana is the product of Matsuoka’s work in health, wellness and assistive technology, partly inspired by her own experience as a mother of four children. Matsuoka recently served as the vice president of Google Healthcare. Previously, he served as the chief technology officer of Nest, leading the development of its iconic learning thermostat. Prior to that, he co-founded and served as the head of innovation for the Google X R&D organization.
Matsuoka left her position at Google Healthcare at the end of 2019 to become the CEO and founder of Yo Labs, an independent subsidiary of Panasonic, which was later renamed Yohana. The goal is to use Panasonic’s hardware expertise to create technology that helps families.
Hardware and related services are still part of the long-term plan, but at the same time, the pandemic creates different priorities.
Like many working parents, Matsuoka found himself facing a whole new set of challenges last year, and on a larger scale.She herself tried in the new company and her YokyWorks Foundation Clarified her vision and put the company on a new path.
“Honestly, everything fell apart,” she said. “I’m almost going crazy, thinking, how can I respond? Then I realized that there are many other women out there who are experiencing the same thing. …we must first truly meet the core needs, and then expand.”
Yoky Matsuoka will be speaking at the upcoming GeekWire Summit in Seattle and online from October 4th to 5th. Details and tickets.