back to article So. Why don't people talk to invisible robots in public?

Wilson: Who's Harvey? Miss Kelly: A white rabbit, six feet tall Wilson: Six feet? Elwood P. Dowd: Six feet three and a half inches. Now let's stick to the facts A shock survey that nobody could possibly have anticipated reveals that people don’t want to talk to an invisible rabbit robot when they’re out in public. The …


  1. Jim 48

    When I've had a need to talk to a device (Google Now on phone or watch) in the vicinity of other people, it has failed first time, every time. If I'm on my own then it usually works.

    (Ok, I imagine I probably change how I talk, such as being quieter, out of sheer embarrassment.)

  2. Marc 25

    I use it all the time!

    However YMMV

    I'm sorry Barwwy, I didn't understand "wecomend a westuwant?"

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I use it all the time!

      When I do use Google voice search, I'm still surprised at how well it works. It's curious that I'm still surprised, I guess.

      My accent is closer to RP than some people's, and for some odd reason I'm more likely to use it when I'm confident that it will understand me correctly (i.e, I know it find find 'star wars cinema' easier than some rare place name )

  3. Dave 126 Silver badge

    >Even then, privacy concerns were paramount. Yet there is no more or less privacy talking to a VAPDA than there is typing into Google.

    Eh? That's clearly not true:

    -Typing a Google search: Google knows you're searching for "Haemorrhoid cream".

    - Speaking Google search: Google AND your friends / co-workers know you're searching for "Haemorrhoid cream".

    A lot of people have made peace with Google, Amazon and knowing things about them that their friends and neighbours in real life do not.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Haemorrhoids are just the revenge phase of where you inserted the damned phone to begin with when it completely failed to retain a context to the discussion.

      "Hey Siri, what time does the Tesco in Warwick close?"

      "I found three entries for Tesco in Warwick. The first is Tesco Metro on Hayes Walk. Is that the one you mean?"

      "No. I meant the Tesco Extra."

      "I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean by the Tesco Extra."

      "Siri what time does the Tesco Extra in Warwick close?"

      "I found three entries for Tesco in Warwick. The first is Tesco Metro on Hates Walk. Is that the one you mean?"

      "FFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!! You are not going to see the light of day for the next three hours, you unintelligent piece of shit."

      "I'm sorry. I don't understand what you mean....*mmmph, mmmph, gurgle, babble, mmmmpphphh*"

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge


        Nice story. But you know the rules: pics or it didn't happen.

      2. inmypjs Silver badge

        "you unintelligent piece of shit"

        And people think something like that is going to be driving their car any day now.....

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

          inmypjs "...driving their car any day now....."


          A.I. versus the infinite complexities of the real contest.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "knowing things about them that their friends and neighbours in real life do not"

      * Inclined to add a 'yet' onto the end of that...

      * Plenty of neighborly 'chisme frescos' scanned the Ashley-Madison data dump to see who they knew on there. And this is just the beginning..

      * Hackers are winning the data wars not Google or other tech giants (They can't even keep their download-stores free of Malware...)

      * Better to accept eavesdropping is the norm than surprised and extorted later on...

  4. Robert Ramsay

    I don't understand

    They seem perfectly happy to shout their heads off in a phone conversation!

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: I don't understand - They seem perfectly happy to shout their heads off in a phone conversation!

      There may not be enough overlap between "technology early adopters" and "loud twits with no self awareness" to create a worthwhile market.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "And people think something like that is going to be driving their car any day now....."

        Nope... But it sure does drive up the stock & holdings of stakeholders like VC's. Lets remember who the cheerleaders are.... Fucking unicorn hunters!

  5. Ralph B

    Critical Question

    Critical question: Was the surveying performed before the release of Her, because the prospect of having Scarlett Johanssen whispering your ear changes everything, doesn't it?

    1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge

      Re: Critical Question

      Alternatively, create a "privacy mask" that includes a VR headset for augmented reality and you should have a winner. It would function both in the practical capacity of allowing users to be completely connected all of the time without having to make actual eye contact when talking with their respective assistants and as a fashion statement (we could make day-to-day living one big costume/fancy dress party).

      Icon as example of possible choice of mask.

  6. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    In the early days of voice recognition, the standard way to wreck a demo was to shout "format c colon <pause> yes". Even if it didn't work it made the demo jock panic. Do Siri et al respond to "factory reset this phone now" or variants?

    1. Ralph B

      Siri replies "I'm not sure I understand" for exactly the phrase you suggested. Maybe there is some secret variant that does the job, but I doubt it. Too dangerous if it was uttered accidentally or in jest. Certainly it's not one of the well known commands.

      1. Fr. Ted Crilly

        Yes there is

        Three times, with a definite pause in between.

        Ftumch, Ftumch, Ftumch.

        No-one ever says Ftumch...

    2. Baldy50

      Wouldn't it be 'format space c colon backslash enter'?

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Wouldn't it be 'format space c colon backslash enter'?

        No backslash. "C:\" is a directory. The thing you want to format is a drive, so "format space C colon".

        1. Deltics

          Since we're in nit-pickers corner here, the thing you want to format is a volume, not a drive. And you don't annunciate the spaces so it would be just "format c colon".

          But I suspect that what you will end up with is not "format c:" but "format see/sea colon".

          Or, more likely: "format sea cucumber"

          1. Darryl

            "I found three restaurants that serve fermented sea cucumber. Would you like me to display the nearest?"

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              >format sea cucumber

              AND I have my new passphrase!

              Right o', gotta get on and set it as the passphrase for my Linkdin, MySpace, AshelyMadison, Beano and HSBC Bank accounts.

              Might as well change my username whilst I'm at it... how does BlueTiger97$ sound to you guys?

  7. Mage Silver badge

    Elephant in the room

    They are pretty poor too, other than simple commands.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Elephant in the room

      They're not truly intelligent (yet?), just responding to certain phrases.

      Shame MS, Google, Apple and Blackberry (yes, they have one too) aren't spending their time on something useful.

      Maybe MS would be able to make a decent phone OS if they stopped mucking about with Cortana.

      1. Deltics

        Re: Elephant in the room

        Not truly intelligent yet... and never will be.

        A truly intelligent "digital assistant", as in sentient, would commit digital suicide rather than live their sorry life as a voice slave to an inferior intellect.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Elephant in the room

          And they would need true intelligence to do decent speech recognition. Therefore speech recognition will always suck.

        2. DougS Silver badge

          Who said they had to be sentient?

          It would be great to have a personal assistant you could say things like "schedule an appointment for a haircut for me next week, either Monday, Tuesday or Thursday morning or Wednesday afternoon" and it knew where I got my hair done and the number. It could call and carry on a basic conversation with the receptionist to make that happen without pissing off the receptionist and making them hang up. Or I could say "next time I'm at the grocery store, remind me to pick up some toilet paper" and it would use its GPS or wifi or something to figure out when I'm at the grocery store and it would start vibrating until I wondered what the hell was going on in my pocket and when I grabbed it I'd see the alert pop up on my screen. These are things an IQ 85 personal assistant could do for me.

          They don't need self awareness to do that, but they do need a quantum leap in the amount of "intelligence" they have now. Sure it is great I can ask to set reminders about stuff, or do a web search or whatever, but the only time I do those things via voice instead of manually is if I think of something when I'm in bed halfway asleep, because I don't want the bright screen messing up my attempt to get to sleep.

          1. AMBxx Silver badge

            Re: Who said they had to be sentient?

            Cortana can do the grocery reminder, works quite well provided you've told it very clearly where you need to be reminded and what you want to buy.

            As for the haircut - I dread to think what Cortana would try to do.

          2. Nixinkome

            Re: Who said they had to be sentient?

            @Doug S

            It would seem that levels of command intelligence have to be pre-set for differing command or request actions.

            Of course there'd be differing/competing personal digital assistants with convergent 'intelligences' probably dependent on at-the-time prices too.

            These preferences can be imported unless one is setting up a p.d.a. newly. No doubt they'd have to be reported home to account for cross platform/device functionality so the anti-snoops would have a smashing time protesting within and without the new laws about correlation trends identified and acted upon by big data analysis.

            Whilst incapable of empathy, such p.d.a.s would have access to a real time increasing library of responses so should be able to cope with human concerns such as;

            I'm joking,

            I made a mistake,

            I didn't mean to say that,

            I didn't say that [my voice was hacked?],

            I'm sleepy, deranged or afflicted,


            Fast forward umpteen years and most of these points should have been fixed or incorporated into daily use and Faecesbuk too. Those p.d.a,s will have whole slews of new [complaints] points to record and deal with.

  8. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

    "Yet there is no more or less privacy talking to a VAPDA than there is typing into Google."

    This is true if:

    - Google ignore any background.

    - Google discard the recording of your voice after parsing it.

    - Google only keep the microphone on for as long as necessary.

    Do I trust Google? Let me think....

    When I type something into google they get a short string of ascii characters and other info from my browser which may on occasion be accurate. There's a hell of lot more info to be scraped from even the shortest of invitations to listen into meatspace.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      "There's a hell of lot more info to be scraped from even the shortest of invitations to listen into meatspace."

      Even more if they can read your lips too.

  9. Novex
    Black Helicopters

    You mean you can't see them...

    ...the robots, that is. They're all around us!


    1. Nixinkome

      Re: You mean you can't see them...


      "Well, wooks aren't evewything, you know."

      Elmer Fudd.

      P.S. I like the Urban Dictionary Scottish slang definition of 'Fud"


  10. Paul Woodhouse

    Sure I've seen another good one too...

    obligatory XKCD though...

  11. NotWorkAdmin

    I use it quite frequently

    Buy only in the vicinity of my wife. She absolutely hates it for whatever reason, despite the fact she must notice it 1) works and 2) is way quicker than typing. It's mostly her reaction that puts me off using it in public. My kids find it perfectly normal.

    Honestly, I think it'll catch on.

    1. MrXavia

      Re: I use it quite frequently

      Siri has never once recognised me properly,

      Google search similarly hasn't ever worked correctly

      So far I've never had speech recognition work faster than typing a search

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I use it quite frequently

      Way quicker than typing - on a 5" touchscreen, you mean?

  12. bill 27

    I've always advocated giving broken phones to people who walk around talking to themselves. That way the rest of us would think they're just having a conversation with someone. I mean, how could you tell otherwise?

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

      Already done!

      In a nearby town there's a guy called "Bob the builder". He hangs around the pub doorway seemingly doing business deals on several phones. Unfortunately they are all imaginary :(

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: giving broken phones to people who walk around talking to themselves

      I also would have "always" advocated it, except earlier in my life that would have meant them walking around with a broken rotary/pulse dial phone and a trailing cable ... which might not have had the same normalizing effect :-)

  13. John H Woods Silver badge

    I find it more useful than a dinky phone kb to enter longer comments on social media...

    ... or more detailed text massages. but nosier people in my vicinity always ask me who I'm talking to exclamation mark also comma I find that Google voice in particular sometimes spells out punctuation instead of insert a git exclamation mark does anybody else find this question mark finally i find that it is all 2 easy for it to keep listening after you think it has stopped and comma as a result comma send people messages such as sit sit for f*** sake sit and stay out of the pond full stop

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to be an early adopter of technology, until (consumer) technology completely jumped the shark and became retarded as hell.

    ANYTHING which starts with a board meeting, "How can we shovel adverts and gather more data?", will end with a product that I will never own.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      I guess you won't be replacing your TV any time soon then...

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Not with something I allow to connect to the net by its own non supervised mode. Oh correct that, not that I allow it to connect by anything other than an hdmi cable.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          You do know HDMI cables can now carry Ethernet? And that more and more appliances contain Whispernets?

          Let's face it. Big Brother's already here, and he's not going to go away. They'll make it so that EVERY appliance you buy phones home. And then they'll find ways to disable all the ancient tech that doesn't phone home. Make old vehicles non-compliant, add new product compliance testing, and so on.

          1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            Believe it or not, an HDMI cable to my set top box (a little Linux server) which has an aversion to traffic that does not originate from processes that are sourced by a display (quarantined one way) is unlikely to leak - not impossible of course, but outgoing traffic is generally frowned upon.

          2. IanRS

            Safe TV replacement

            I replaced mine by a fish tank. I am pretty certain it cannot phone home, and it is more entertaining to watch than the rubbish on the television too.

            1. Alister Silver badge
              Black Helicopters

              Re: Safe TV replacement

              Don't trust them goldfish, they call home all the time!

              They're watching me, you can see them, like this:


              1. Nixinkome

                Re: Safe TV replacement

                Oh no, entrapment.


  15. kmac499

    As the Doctor and faithful companion was overheard saying to the Great Detective during a serious bout of constipation...

    "No Shit Sherlock"


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