Move over Siri, Sherpa's in town

This digital assistant app, popular in Spain and Latin America, is rolling out in the U.S. today. Will it give Siri a run for its money?

Paul Sloan Former Editor
Paul Sloan is editor in chief of CNET News. Before joining CNET, he had been a San Francisco-based correspondent for Fortune magazine, an editor at large for Business 2.0 magazine, and a senior producer for CNN. When his fingers aren't on a keyboard, they're usually on a guitar. Email him here.
Paul Sloan
2 min read

The march toward a better, voice-controlled future continues, even with Siri, Google Voice Search and newer digital assistants, such as Donna, already on the scene.

The latest entrant is Sherpa, a natural language Android app that's a top app in Spain and Latin America and today is rolling out in the U.S. -- first for Android, eventually for iOS.

Like Siri, Sherpa attempts to help organize your life and perform tasks when you ask the app questions or give it commands. It's the brainchild of Xabier Uribe-Etxebarria, who's based in Bilbao, Spain, and has been working on natural language and semantic technology for more than a decade.

"My vision was to build interface to our digital life," Uribe-Etxebarria told me. "For everything to be done through Sherpa. We haven't done that yet. But compared with other, we're way better. We're beyond Siri."

That will be up to users to decide. Sherpa, which also has offices in Redwood City, Calif., has partnered with a number of companies and draws on a number of sources, such as PayPal, Themoviedb.org, Lastminute.com, Wikipedia, and LinkedIn. The idea is to limit the dependency on search engines so Sherpa can deliver up specific answers instead of a list of links.

Sherpa works in both English and Spanish, and the technology learns over time, says Uribe-Etxebarria, so it should get better at interpreting what you're asking for.

It does some nifty things. You can ask it to show your mentions on Twitter, and it does. You can post directly to Facebook by talking. You can tell it to pay someone $10 through PayPal and complete the transaction. You can ask to hear a Rihanna song, and Sherpa begins to stream the music via a partnership with a European company that has the rights to 4 million tracks.