Hey Siri, are you real?
Author: James Clay
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Following on from my recent blog post about installing voice assistants on campus, I recently read an article, Giving human touch to Alexa or Siri can backfire, on how trying to make voice assistants appear to be human or have human touches may not give you the results you were looking for.
A team has found that giving a human touch to chatbots like Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa may actually disappoint users.
Just giving a chatbot human name or adding human-like features to its avatar might not be enough to win over a user if the device fails to maintain a conversational back-and-forth with that person…
This reminded me of a conversation I had at an Intelligent Campus workshop where the idea of trying to make chatbots appear human was probably not a good idea, and maybe they should intentionally make their chatbot non-human.
There are potential challenges as Microsoft found out with their paper clip assistant, but was that because it was a paper clip or because it was annoying?
In many ways Clippy was the ancestor of Siri, Cortana and other modern day assistants.
A non-human chatbot could also avoid some of the gender issues that occur when deciding if your chatbot is female or male.
This Guardian article from March discusses this contentious issue, of gender for voice assistants.
Providing assistance has long been considered a woman’s role, whether virtual or physical, fictional or real. The robots that men voice, meanwhile, tend to be in positions of power – often dangerously so. Think Hal 9000, or the Terminator: when a robot needs to be scary, it sounds like a man.
Patriarchy tells us that women serve, while men order, and technology firms seem content to play into stereotypes, rather than risk the potentially jarring results of challenging them.
The article talks about EqualAI
EqualAI, an initiative dedicated to correcting gender bias in AI, has backed the creation of Q, what it says is the first genderless voice.
So if you do have a non-human chatbot, if you want to extend it to be a voice assistant, at least soon you will be able to have a genderless voice behind it.
So what (rather than who) should be your chatbot? Well it could be an anthropomorphic animal or maybe something else that is special to your university or college.
So what would your chatbot be?