Dawn of the Virtual Assistant

Excerpt from this article:

Allowing someone to do your vetting requires trust. I applaud x.ai for including, at the bottom of each of Amy’s emails, the information that Amy Ingram is a form of artificial intelligence; if my correspondents had twigged to this fact on their own, they might have felt like Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby.”

Additionally, I loved that Amy sent me copies of all her correspondence for the first three meetings she set up for me. It was reassuring that Amy did not not deploy the locutions “No problem” or its hideous offspring “N.P.”

But the more I used Amy, the more I saw that she can be relied on for finding a mutually convenient time between parties, but not much more.

Advertisements

Siri, Tell Me a Joke. No, a Funny One.

Illustration by Lisa Adams

Excerpt from this article:

Fred Brown, founder and chief executive of Next IT, which creates virtual chatbots, said his company learned firsthand the importance of creating a computer with a sense of humor when he asked his 13-year-old daughter, Molly, to test Sgt. Star, the Army’s official chatbot, which allows potential recruits to ask questions about the Army, just as you would in a recruiting station.

Molly was chatting with Sgt. Star when she looked up and said, “Dad, Sergeant Star is dumb.” When he asked why, she said, “He has to have a favorite color, and it can’t be Army green.”

Turns out, more than a quarter of the questions people ask Sgt. Star have nothing to do with the Army after Next IT programmed it with more human answers.

People trust the machine more if it has a personality, especially a sense of humor, and not just the ability to answer the question correctly, Mr. Brown said.

Siri, Cortana, And Why Our Smartphone Assistants Have Such Weird Names

Excerpt from this article:

Tech companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are making calculated bets that intelligent personal assistants are the future… The most obvious similarity among many digital personal assistants is that they sound like women, even though our robot friends are decidedly gender neutral… Many of these helper bots also have distinctly feminine voices to go along with their girly names.

Obviously, these companies want us to think of our disembodied servant companions as women. Since most of these programs end up doing what amounts to secretarial work, that fits into cultural stereotypes of who should be doing that kind of work…