Hey Siri, Why Don’t I Use You?

By Alexandre Darche

Visual by Marine Derone

Most people I know don’t use the Siri or Google Assistant feature on their phones, and they should.

Just this month, Microsoft invested in both McGill and Université de Montréal to help develop their artificial intelligence (AI) research labs. Other tech giants like Apple, IBM and Google are all making similar investments, and for good reason. AI is the next frontier in technological advancement, and the longer you wait to integrate it into your life, the more you’re falling behind.

When home computing started in the late 80s, there were few early adopters. People thought that most things you could accomplish on primitive computers could be done by hand with less of a headache. As the 90s came along, a lot of people were behind on how to work with these tools. The younger generation growing up with it, however, quickly learned how to use it to their advantage and became experts in the field. A similar situation occurred with smartphones as the older population clung onto their Blackberries and physical keyboards instead of following trends.

I’ve always found that my generation has been quick to be forerunners with these cutting-edge technologies. Why, then, with AI, do most of us ignore it, especially when it’s preinstalled on all our new gadgets?

Well, for one, personal assistants for the most have sucked. Also, it’s still a little taboo to be yelling “Ok Google!” at your phone in public.

However, virtual assistants are now in this weird state of limbo. They aren’t good enough to have human-grade conversations with but they’re now much more responsive than the SmarterChild program we used to chat with on MSN Messenger (RIP). After trying out virtual assistants for a while, I’ve found that there’s a specific vocabulary to use to get exactly what you want from them. While the learning curve for this kind of technology is a little unorthodox, its essentially the same as learning how to add any other device to your workflow.

These assistants are appearing everywhere too, not only on your smartphones. Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s new Google Home both act as external virtual assistants for the house, with which you can control your smart lights, give yourself reminds or check the weather. TV boxes (those things that are making cable subscriptions go extinct) and other smart appliances are also using voice commands. We are moving towards a society where all your appliances will be connected to increase efficiency in your everyday life. We’ve been dreaming of this kind of sci-fi technology since we were kids. Now that it’s here, it’s all our duties to make this futuristic tech the norm.

So, next time you have to set an alarm, write a note or Shazam a song at a bar: don’t start typing on your phone, yell at it!


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