January 28, 2013

"Google Now does a much better job, moment to moment, in anticipating the information that a user needs than Siri."

"So what can Siri do better? Have an emotional relationship with a user...."
Google Now does not attempt personality, merely efficiency, and given that company’s strengths, I think this is a good design decision. But if Apple cannot compete on sheer efficiency, can it make up for it with charm?

This is in fact one of the main uses for “personality” in humans—to make up for deficits....
Here's an illustration of how that works:



Once you know the programming is designed to smooth over the shortcomings of the product, will it still work? Maybe so. Another question is whether Apple will give us some alternative personalities. Siri comes across as a relatively perky and warm young female. That's not what everyone wants! I'd like to see some more amusing approaches. Why not a witty, bitchy older woman or a comical guy? Unfortunately, Apple won't associate itself with anything sexual, but I'm sure many users would like their computers' voice to take daring liberties with them.

ADDED: "The human brain is built so that when given the slightest hint that something is even vaguely social, or vaguely human... given the slightest hint of humanness, people will respond with an enormous array of social responses including... reciprocating and retaliating."

47 comments:

Anthony said...

I won't use one until they get a voice like HAL from 2001.

Surfed said...

I want a fraulein's voice telling me "You vill like this information." Whip crack optional.

Surfed said...

@Anthony - Life sized hal with voice. http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/f29d/?srp=5

Ann Althouse said...

"I want a fraulein's voice telling me "You vill like this information." Whip crack optional."

And I think a lot of ladies would like whatever that 50 Shades of Grey guy is supposed to sound like.

Surfed said...

You would be correct.

Anthony said...

@Surfed: I've seen that! But, damn it, I want it to be able to hold a reasonable conversation.

"HAL. . .errr, Siri, open the Facebook app, please."

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave. . .I mean Anthony."

Ralph Hyatt said...

Big Bang Theory already has an episode where Raj falls in love with his cell phone.

http://www.bing.com/search?q=youtube+big+bang+theory+siri&qs=n&form=QBLH&pq=youtube+big+bang+theory+siri&sc=1-28&sp=-1&sk=

Surfed said...

And if my computer was truly intuitive there would be the voice of Sister St. Matthews for when I was accessing sites that would make the nuns that taught me blush. "In an Irish brouge - "Ahh but Mr. Surfed, you'll be finding a special place in hell reserved for you and all your shady companions." Pointer swipe required.

rehajm said...

This is in fact one of the main uses for “personality” in humans—to make up for deficits

personality goes a long way

Patrick said...

And I think a lot of ladies would like whatever that 50 Shades of Grey guy is supposed to sound like.

You mean Gilbert Gottfried?

X said...

I want one that sounds like Mountain Man on Duck Dynasty.

elkh1 said...

I think Siri is a male in Germany.

virgil xenophon said...

I'm for the witty, bitchy older woman--say a cynical Jewish NYC female from Brooklyn..

Bob Ellison said...

My first NAV system was built into my BMW. The voice came across as a rather testy, pushy female from somewhere like Connecticut. I kept expecting her to say "What part of...turn left...did you...not...understand?" My wife and I took to calling her "the NAV bitch".

Our second NAV system, built into a Honda, was much nicer. Still kinda bossy, of course, but pleasant. We called her "the NAVigatrix".

I took a portable Garmin NAV thingy to Italy a few years ago, and it kept saying the street names with typically Americanish bad pronunciation. So I switched it to a man's voice, speaking in Italian. Suddenly the pronunciation was beautiful and flawless, but I couldn't understand what he was telling me to do. Oh, well.

Bob Ellison said...

In Old Man's War, author John Scalzi describes several characters having computer interfaces wired into their brains as personal assistants, with audio, text, and other capabilities. Sort of like a much more intelligent SIRI with PDA abilities, Google, Netflix, and Wikipedia combined.

When the characters come together to discuss their new computer interfaces, they discover that each of them has assigned a pejorative name to his/her assistant: things like A**hole, Bitch, Idiot, and worse.

That's a good SF book, by the way.

Henry said...

So the future is the zhu zhu pet.

Me: "What's that weird noise?"

My son: "A zhu zhu pet."

Me: "How do you turn it off?"

My son: "I forgot."

St. George said...

I saw "2001" in a theatre a few weeks ago.

Everyone burst out laughing when, as Dave was shutting down HAL, the computer said, "Dave, I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over."

Mary Beth said...

I want GLaDOS from Portal.

Tibore said...

" That's not what everyone wants!

Yes, correct, but "what everyone wants" has never been an Apple concern. Their corporate model is to dictate to you what you need, not accomodate what you desire.

Tibore said...

"My first NAV system was built into my BMW. The voice came across as a rather testy, pushy female from somewhere like Connecticut..."

This is why I don't like autoborne technology. I'm afraid that one day I'll get into a car, the seat belt will tighten around me, the doors will lock, and the car'll say "Goodbye... Mr. Bond" while I'm howling "No, I'm not him!!!!"

Anthony said...

My thing is, it had to be either very good at sounding natural or else quite obviously non-human and not trying to be. Few things irritate me more than a computer trying to be cute. Some call centers just send me completely off the rails ('losing my religion' as they say). Like one of the voice-recog systems that had a cheerful 20-something sounding female voice pretending to be conversational:

"Iiiii'm not sure I got that. Would you repeat that please?"

EMD said...

Microsoft SYNC is shit, BTW. I like my Ford Explorer, but it's rare that the touchscreen works well all at once.

The giving-you-directions voice is the standard female drone, but the accessing-services voice is like Drew Barrymore on quaaludes.

Bill Harshaw said...

Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey.

edutcher said...

I like efficiency, but Google has a tendency to throw in their "We're Citizens of the World" politics.

Ann Althouse said...

Siri comes across as a relatively perky and warm young female. That's not what everyone wants! I'd like to see some more amusing approaches. Why not a witty, bitchy older woman or a comical guy?

In other words, Mel Blanc died about 25 years too soon.

Unfortunately, Apple won't associate itself with anything sexual, but I'm sure many users would like their computers' voice to take daring liberties with them.

For that, call 1-900-IMABABE.

Nathan Alexander said...

The Turing Test asks whether a machine can pass for a thinking being.

In light of recent political developments, I propose the Brainfertilizer Test: whether a liberal/Democrat can ever pass for a thinking being.

Krugman fails this second test regularly.

Next Adventure said...

The French version uses a middle aged male voice - maybe that is what the 50 Shades of Grey guy sounds like.

Chip Ahoy said...

That bit about being wired for social responsiveness is twue so vewy twue.

At Tilden's they asked if I had a coupon and I said no. They insisted the coupon is a very good idea, and I must bring one. For some reason they're BIG on the coupons. It makes it half price. $35.00 to $15.00. Now two people are URGING me to walk home while they service the truck and print a ticket, come back, and they'll give me the price.

My two printers are both total bitches.

I came back with my hands dyed black, and behaving normally and unaffected I make it clear my black hands are ALL THEIR FAULT. Do you guys have and Lava? BANG black hands. Both immediately scrambled to get me stuff to clean my hands and I wasn't even bothered by them being stained. They were bothered though.

See? We connected.

Then the guy says next time I can take a picture of a coupon with my phone and use that instead. Duh.

But now HIS printer breaks and he become infuriated about it right in front of us, and we're backing up in a tight office so it gives us all something to talk about, printers and black stained hands coupons and technology.

Chip Ahoy said...

Oh, but, Nathan, Krugman has a Nobel prize in economics and that's all my doctor needs to be comfortable with 16.4 T ntl. dbt., and working 'till June for the Government.

I was talking to a Latino couple with three very young children and the whole time I was thinking how well pleased they must be with Obama and Democrats assuring their babies have healthcare, and I wondered if it's true each baby born today is born into $350,000 of debt, then his babies owe one million dollars right off, and how would they feel about that?

Lew Lipshitz said...

...a comical guy?

I'm available, and cheap! Call Mel Stein, my agent since the Catskills.

Palladian said...

I deactivated Siri on my phone because I never used it aside from playing with it the first few weeks I had the 4S. The truth is, it's much faster, more efficient and less of a public spectacle to type things than to speak into the phone.

edutcher said...

Next Adventure said...

The French version uses a middle aged male voice - maybe that is what the 50 Shades of Grey guy sounds like.

Like they used in "True Lies"?

Freeman Hunt said...

I like the robot woman voice of my Kindle's text to speech.

Freeman Hunt said...

I thought I would like the male robot voice better, but he sounds like a twit.

Freeman Hunt said...

Can we get it with a Ruggles voice?

elkh1 said...

Tibore said...
" That's not what everyone wants!

"[Apple's] corporate model is to dictate to you what you need, not accomodate what you desire."

Have you ever desired an iPod, an iPhone, an iPad before Apple said you needed them? Remember the Walkman that was so cool that everybody on the planet desired; that Motorola Razor flip-phone was awesome, and RIM's Blackberry was a must have?

Jobs' Apple knows what you needed before you know what you desired. Timmy's Apple tries to accomodate your desire and becomes an also-run.

Larry J said...

I took a portable Garmin NAV thingy to Italy a few years ago, and it kept saying the street names with typically Americanish bad pronunciation. So I switched it to a man's voice, speaking in Italian. Suddenly the pronunciation was beautiful and flawless, but I couldn't understand what he was telling me to do. Oh, well.

A woman I met a few years ago talked about using her Jane-Jane GPS to get around. When I asked her about the brand, she said it was a Tom Tom Go reset to use a woman's voice "because we all know that men can't give directions."

Air Force tactical aircraft had voice alerts for when the plane thought they were flying too low. The system was programed with a woman's voice, so the pilots called it "Bitching Betty."

Basta! said...

Please, noooo.
I don't want any devices talking at me, regardless of the "voice" used.

Some years ago a local paper did a puff-piece on MIT's Media Lab, which works on applications for new technology. The guy interviewed was very enthusiastic about all the great ideas they have and all the great projects underway. Yeah, some of them are, but the only one that stuck with me from this interview was a refrigerator that would speak as you walked by it, saying things like "you're low on milk".

Welcome to hell.

bagoh20 said...

To avoid any misunderstanding, I ordered a sex doll that looks like Ernest Borgnine.

bagoh20 said...

What I want is a simple application that will read out loud whatever I highlight on my screen. Is there one?

I want it in the voice of a gay man doing a cheer, but even without that bonus, I'm interested. Any links?

Bob Ellison said...

bagoh20, Windows comes standard with text-to-speech support.

Someone once emailed me to ask whether there was software that supported making someone say something in a particular person's voice. He used Bill Clinton as an example. [Not quoting: ] "Hey, big girl! You're looking gooooood!" "I want you to look into my eyes, because I'm not blinking. Listen carefully, because I'm only gonna say this once. I think Barack Obama is the best thing that has happened to this country since me."

That technology is still a few years away.

bagoh20 said...

"Windows comes standard with text-to-speech support"

Oh yea, MS Navigator. I forgot about that, but I can't make that work at all, especially in browser windows.

I was actually looking for one that would work on my smart phone. I'd like to be able to select a chunk of text and and say read it. I've tried a few apps that claim to do that, but they never work well enough to really use.

Erika said...

Bag, I discovered by accident last night that Pocket seems to do this, but I have not had time to explore it yet.

Erika said...

But I think it might be just a whole article, not highlighted portions. Instead of doing the supper dishes I'll go try it and see : )

And sidebar--I have Google Now on my Nexus tablet, and all it ever tells me is that I have a boring life. "Time to 'home': 5 minutes, light traffic." "Time to 'work': 5 minutes, light traffic.

Erika said...

Ah, it seems to be a TTS thing. Functional for those who need it, but not pleasant listening.

Kirk Parker said...

Henry,

Me: "How do you turn it off?"

My son: "I forgot."

You know that microwave oven you've been wanting to replace? It will turn off the zhu zhu. Give it a try!

Really.

wyo sis said...

I used to call a skateboard store for things for my son. If I ever get a machine that speaks to me I want the voice they had for their voice mail. Sort of laid back surfer dude but deep like Clark Gable.

kentuckyliz said...

My brother has his GPS set to a female British voice. If he disobeys the directions, she very sternly says, "You've been a very naughty boy!"