Last week, Google unveiled its latest controversial technology. in the video, CEO Sundar Pichai smiled as if totally unaware or just unbothered by the intrusive technology, an AI controlled voice called a hair salon and booked an appointment. It elicited audible gasps of astonishment from the audience as the AI bot even included “ums” and “uhs” to mimic a real human trying to think of a response.
Of course, that was the only example that was shown, and it was admitted that other calls had failed miserably. So even though the technology got a lot of press, it may not even work beyond a few examples. No only that, it could turn out to be a creepy mess like Google Glass.
If you remember, Google Glass was suppose to be a huge leap in technology. Not only that, it was going to make wearable tech cool, almost like a trendy fashion accessory. But there was one problem, they gave the first models to geeks and weirdos who posed wearing Google glass and looking ridiculous. The whole launch was a debacle. The public thought the idea of someone walking around with a recording device on their face was a creepy. There were even stories of fights almost starting as people wore the glasses in public since others didn’t know if they were being recorded or not.
I feel this new assistant may go along the same route. It seems interesting, but once you experience it out in the real world, it’s just creepy. Once people on the other end of the phone realize they are being spoken to by a robot, most will become angry or frustrated and feel duped, they won’t be amazed by the technology.
Think about it, if you get a call and realize it’s a robot making a call on someone’s behalf, will you feel comfortable to continue speaking to it? Of course not, you will feel foolish to be having a conversation with a fake AI robot. Not only that, the fact that the robot tries to sound human with little human-like errors in its speech will only make it all the more absurd for you to keep on talking to it.
And this brings me to the point. Why is Google trying to make a voice assistant to trick people into thinking it’s human. Wouldn’t the obvious thing to do be to just have the assistant announce that it is an AI assistant and will be making an appointment for a human. This would eliminate a lot of the creepy factor, and it would be more honest and ethical for the person on the other end of the phone.
Not only that, the technology could become as goofy and hated as Google Glass unless it performs perfectly. Imagine a receptionist who deals with hundreds of calls a day. But now they have to deal with the occasional phone call that starts off normal, but then the AI messes up, only for the receptionist to realize they have just had their time wasted by a robot who didn’t understand a joke or a bit of small talk.
Overall, despite the news coverage of this new AI assistant, I believe it will be just another creepy addition to Google’s other failed projects unless they make changes. It seems as though the tech “geniuses” who work at Google have a hard time understanding how real people think.