Friday, April 8, 2016

A lot goes into creating a virtual assistant

Virtual assistant--nice words for a robot pal. Elizabeth Dowskin, Wash Post, Apr 7, 2106, wrote about what is involved in creating an artificial "person."

You start with a screenwriter--so this caught my interest, being one. The screenwriter was working with engineers to create a program for a virtual nurse named Sophie to check with patients on their smartphone and ask about their pain and medications.

Unlike the nonexistent people screenwriters usually write about, virtual assistants do boring tasks such as sending meeting reminders and turning off lights.

Still, they have to feel natural. Amazon's Alexa puts "ummms" and "hmmms" into her speech. Apple's Siri makes wry jokes.

Artificial Intelligence writers--AI to you--think up a life story...Is the assistant a workaholic, eager beaver, self-effacing?

Last year investors threw $35 million into AI startups.

All this is aided by strides into the ability of a computer to understand speech. Word recognition has gone from 80% in 2009 to 95% today.

By 2025--12.7 million new jobs will involve building robots or automation hardware.

Microsoft's Cortana has six writers. A poet, a novelist, a playwright and a former TV writer. They even tried to decide if Cortana was for Trump or Hillary--but decided "she" was aware of both good and bad info on each.

Do these entities ever morph away from the masters? You know--get a mind of their own? Tay, a chat bot Microsoft recently released, was terminated in a week when it began talking like a Nazi--parroting comments from the internet.

Should a bot sound businesslike or try for an emotional connection--that is the question.

What a world.

I remember a toy my sister's grandson had 20 years go. He had to pick letters and numbers for some board pattern...The female voice would say, "Please pick a number..."  PAUSE. "Could you pick a number?" THEN "PICK a number" would come out shrewlike and grating. The poor kid would jump a foot.

No comments: