Some thoughts on all this voice malarky. I mean, Google Duplex. Because apparently it’s the future of the smart home, and seeing as I’m writing a damn book about the topic here we go. (PS: pre-order the book for much much more). I think this’ll be useful for the talk I’m giving tomorrow at YLE too.
Here’s some of what happens when you put speakers and ‘listeners’ in the home.
- Audio Clippy: Seemingly helpful audio prompts based on in-home behaviour. As soon as the sound of cooking happens, and your smart camera spots you took something out of the fridge, some dumb speaker goes ‘it looks like you’re trying to cook with butter, I have some recipe ideas for you’.
- Weird concepts of trust: I say ‘Alexa book me a flight’ and I’m not entirely sure I can trust it to find the cheaper one so I also cross-check on my laptop, my phone, I log out of Google, I use a VPN. I lose 3 hours of my life looking for a cheap flight.
- The silent culprit. My speaker hears me scream but doesn’t call the police. It sees my partner is beating me or I’m beating my child frequently but doesn’t call social services.
- GDPR for phone calls. You have to listen to a hold message before taking a call from a robot. You inevitably press 2 for no or 1 for yes depending on who it’s coming from.
- You start to be very quiet a home. Just in case you know, the speaker misunderstands something you say as a request to purchase something.
- The illusion of ease of use. Calls to hairdressers are easy but calls to doctors or plumbers are complicated. You spend 20mns setting up an IFTT recipe to place a phone call that would have taken you 2 minutes.
- Language issues. You can’t train your assistant to make a call in another language because you also don’t know if they’re interpreting your request in the right way.
- Phone lines are for robots anyway. Eventually Google gets its own phone line you pay for.
- What customer service? Banks to lay off part of their customer support staff as bots can just talk at each other to solve complex banking queries and can exchange more secure authentification than my date of birth.
- Captchas for phone calls. Elite restaurants buy new services to weed out people who can’t be bothered making their own bookings. Or the return of ‘we only do walk-ins’.
So. Yeh. That’s what I think about voice. Fun.