Ok Google, be my friend

Digital personal assistants are quite new things but they already do their job neatly and surely offer a lot of potential for the future. The first wide-spread, generally established and known assistant was Apple’s Siri, who helped users with basic tasks on their phones. For a couple years, people have been able to delegate duties like setting reminders or writing messages to this AI and were also able to hold trivial, non-work related conversations with Siri.

However, a few years have passed since Siri was introduced and AI has improved rapidly as have digital assistants. One of the latest instalments in this series is Google Home, which has its central focus on a small electronic device in the shape of a stylish, modern vase. This vase includes speakers, microphones and a connection to the internet, which are all necessary for the AI assistant to communicate with you. Anywhere in a room or even in a house, you can just say whatever you want this assistant to do by just telling the device your task in everyday language after an initial “Ok Google”. You can ask it to play music you will probably enjoy hearing, tell it to close the blinds in the living room, record your favourite TV show on Monday or order groceries missing in the fridge. If you are bored, you can also just ask the assistant to tell you a joke or make some small talk.

In just a few years AI in digital assistants has developed from a rather stupid technology only capable of writing your spoken words into messages into a futuristic system with its own personality that can control your entire home just by being told to do so. This leads to the question how this technology will develop over the next years and what AI will be able to do. Possibly, as many critics suppose, these systems will turn against us and try to harm humans like HAL9000 did in the famous movie series “Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke. Although such a scenario would be possible, hopefully the trend will lead in a different direction.

When looking at the personality and the ability to get to know the user that current day AI assistants already have, development in this sector would be rather interesting. Maybe one day such assistants could learn who we are and how we react in different situations in such a precise way that they would be able to imitate humans. By adjusting their voices to even sound like the imitated person, communicating with your digital assistant would feel the same as phoning your best friend. Taking the situation one step further and combining this sophisticated AI with progress in robotics that allows robots to be built looking exactly like individual humans it would be possible to clone everyone into machines.

The last step of this future prognosis may be a little bit too unrealistic and would lead to a huge number of ethical and legal questions but AI in digital assistants getting more human like personalities and being able to imitate individuals seems to be quite realistic and something we will probably not have to wait too long for.

Christoph Sieber(Winner of Blogger’s challenge 2017)
University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien

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