Houston, Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, we’ve got a problem: We use voice assistants for little more than setting timers and music. And that is obviously a problem for those who are behind it because we don’t take advantage of them and therefore, the manufacturers don’t monetize them. It might seem that the ball is in our court as users, but nothing is further from the truth: I have been using voice assistants for five years and although in theory I can do hundreds of things with them, practice is another thing: there are times when what I want most is to throw my voice assistants out the window.
Hello, my name is Eva and I bought a Google Home Mini when it arrived in Spain in the summer of 2018. Since then I have been incorporating an Echo, an Echo Show 15 and an Echo Flex into my home. I’ve been an iOS user since the iPhone 3GS, so I’ve been with Siri from the beginning. The CEO of Microsoft says that when voice assistants began their journey “they were dumber than a stone” and let’s see, without being so exhaustive and having observed a certain evolution over the years, my question is: But is it that today voice assistants are used for something more than turning on a light bulb, telling you the time, what time it is and setting a timer?
lost in translation
In my experience, no. And note that I have left the music not included. It is not by chance and yes, it is still one of the things that I ask my Alexa the most on a day-to-day basis. Of course, have you tried asking him while you cook to put on Shakira’s with Bizarrap? Success. ‘Put me’ Nonchentera ‘de Vico’, depending on what I give her, she will understand you or what she says nocturnal he will choke. And what about ‘Another one bites the dust’ from the Queen musical? Sooner or later he will not understand you. Is it my pronunciation, is it that I speak very fast or perhaps that I don’t vocalize? Yes, the voice assistants are up to the task if you just ask for “Shakira music,” but if you stray from such general things to long titles or specific versions that you know are available, you’ve bought all the ballots for disaster. It is also problematic to lower the volume when it is quite loud, having to yell at yourself to be heard.
I am a fervent defender of using Google Assistant in our Seat León with Android Auto to avoid distractions, but when you try tasks as common as managing music or questions related to navigation (“Navigate to Pamplona without tolls”), the task becomes so long and tedious that it is better to stop on the shoulder and put it myself. Too many orders and steps, many misunderstandings… I feel like Scarlett Johansson in ‘Lost in translation’.
words. The first stone in the path of voice assistants are those colloquial words that are not in the dictionary or that we perhaps pronounce a little that way. He drama It may be something as simple as asking you to “open the Twitter app”, but it turns out that you still say “ap” or say “app”. Well, he hasn’t understood you anymore. If we go to other languages trying to pronounce the title of a song or the name of a person, failure is almost guaranteed.
If I’ve learned anything from talking to voice assistants, it’s that the order, the shorter the better. “Put the Philips on green” works with my lamp, but to get to that level of precision I had to try and fight my natural human language, which would ask me to say something like “turn on the Philips lamp and change the color to green “. Longer implies a greater risk of inserting a structure or not understanding a word. If he doesn’t understand, there are two options: either he interprets it his way or he asks you to repeat it. This creates frustration and discomfort, and what’s worse: there may come a point where you decide to dismiss this task for the assistant and end up taking out your phone to open the Hue app and change the color by hand.
Excuse me pretty, but no. Voice assistants are very good at providing you with factual information such as ‘what year was Barbara Rey born?’, but they can fail miserably at answering what hasn’t been asked if they don’t properly interpret the query. So again it’s time to reformulate the question, simplify or end up saying “Alexa, shut up” because it gets involved in a long useless answer. The result? For potentially problematic questions, go to the telephone search engine.
Another most awkward moment with my voice assistant (in this case with the Siri on my Apple Watch) has to do with its willingness to jump into conversations when uninvited. That moment when you are talking to someone and she detects that she has been summoned, interrupting to respond to what she has understood. It also happens to me with the Echo Show that we have next to the TV while we are watching something. They fail detecting the trigger that invokes them.
The theory is wonderful, the practice ok
On paper, voice assistants are the epitome of the smart home, integrating services and platforms to a comprehensive experience of entertainment, comfort, personalization and optimization… but the day to day is something else. Thus, putting the Roomba to clean the house has its mystery: not only do you have to be meticulous, precise and sparing with the order, but it is practically limited to start working, stop, return to the base and little else . As you want specific cleaning programs (in my opinion, being able to choose what you want to clean and how is the best of having mapping and connectivity) the mission becomes an odyssey. And then there is that the robot vacuum is noisy, so the voice assistant may not hear you and you have to go closer and yell. Impractical.
These problems sting even more so when you see how well AI language models perform with ChatGPT leading the way when it comes to understand how we express ourselves and the contextualization. Yes, voice assistants have the challenge of capturing the voice, unraveling our way of pronouncing, accents and timbres, but voice assistants need the artificial intelligence that we have seen in recent times, such as breathing.
In Xataka Home | At home I use Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa, but if I had to choose, I would choose Alexa: here are the reasons