Maluuba adds voice-based shopping to its Android digital assistant, promises Windows Phone release

Maluuba, the Google Now and Siri alternative, has stepped up its game with an update for Android that brings shopping integration from some major retailers.

While Canadians get play a little bit — the service integrates with the Google Shopping API — the American contingent of Maluuba users stands to benefit the most from this update. The company has tied in directly with Walmart and Best Buy, allowing users to find specific products from those sights by entering semantic searches vocally or by typing. But for retailers with whom Maluuba doesn’t have an explicit deal, the app invisibly plugs the search query into the company’s retail site — IKEA or Home Depot are two examples — who localized results are still possible.

The company is pretty proud of this achievement: it is the first virtual assistant, so to speak, to successfully implement shopping queries. Maluuba’s CEO, Sam Paspupalak, said in a press release that “online shopping has changed how we buy things profoundly,” and that by allowing users to enter semantic searches, much like they would talk to a store employee, they’re more quickly able to find the things they want.

I’ve been shopping for a vacuum cleaner lately. With a small apartment and very little storage space, plus a limited budget, it’s been a chore finding a suitable model. When I asked Maluuba, “Show me a great vacuum cleaner,” it plugged into Google Search and used my search history, along with relevant deals and most popular brands, to display useful results.

When I asked the same question to Maluuba, this time specifying the retailer, it plugged the search query ‘vacuum cleaner’ into each one’s mobile search page. It may be simple, especially since I wanted “highest rated” vacuum cleaner, but the service promises to become more intelligent, and relevant, as the company works closely with specific sellers.

Maluuba still works as a Google Now and Siri alternative, and it bests both the services in many ways. While semantic queries often register similar results between them, Maluuba allows users to set reminders, navigate a commute, find businesses and restaurants, check out events in the neighbourhood, play music, connect with friends, and now shop.

Maluuba is also gearing up to release a Windows Phone 8 app, which it promises will be “beautiful, [and] we’re really hoping it becomes the flagship app that everyone must install,” says Tareq Ismail, the company’s head of user experience. And there are bigger things down the pipeline for the Waterloo-based company, though they’re keeping the specifics close to the chest.

Great things are coming for Maluuba, however. This much is clear.

Download Maluuba for Android.