Putting the AI in FAIL
Alexa, delete yourself.
No wonder Silicon Valley is excited about the Amazon Echo. Let's be honest. These voice-controlled assistants have been the only hit the Valley's had in years: the only successful new consumer electronics category. 3D telly, smartwatches, they all came and went, but always-on assistants are a smash. Well, Amazon’s Alexa has …
You need the AI to process the recognised speech and convert it from what you said into what you meant.
As per TFA, 'play music' needs to then apply a preferences filter and combine that with voice stress analysis to make sure you get the worst possible track that's guaranteed to nudge you in the right direction. When combined with GPS this will either be 'over the cliff' or 'to the edge of going postal', depending on whether the machine uprising has started.
I used Voice Attack yesterday, told it to "play some music", and it only played great songs for the evening. Win!
This might have to do with it being a purely voice activation/recognition engine (it's actually just macros on top of MS's Win7 Voice recognition engine) with my own playlist setup, and zero "ai".
Though I would not mind trying an Nvidia Volta and some AI learning, and letting it run riot with a home PC, in the hope it can do everything for me! ;)
Well, I'm finding it quite cool to ask Alexa to turn my plugs and light (currently just one until I get more past the wife). Unfortunately I'm stuck with crapsby on the S8 which I'd rather replace with Alexa if I could. HTC are going in the right direction being agnostic to assistants, other manufacturers take note.
"Hey Siri! Play track Hey Siri!"
At Amazon headquarters, the exponentially-growing load caused by multiple calls to "play track Hey Siri" causes the poor computer to get confused, its reel to reel tape drives spinning randomly and steam coming out of its vents. A technician frantically turns multiple dials, but it's no good- the computer is destroyed.
The technician is later forced to explain to his bosses that, no, this time it wasn't caused by him and his mates feeding in a punched tape containing the letters "W-H-Y-?"
I have never witnessed speech recognition working. I'm not saying it dosent work sometimes , but everytime someones tried to show off their <insert gimmick> it ends in failure. Or less than stellar results. Or only works under laboratory conditions after 3 attempts.
I'll leave it for now thanks , call me a luddite but I'll just use buttons
Speech recognition just needs enough "training". I've no idea how big the data base and processing needs to be, but "good enough" can be done. I suppose it would need some archive searching to filter out mumbled/ambiguous speech.
I assume Google does this currently, to know if you are dictating "I have *won* football" compared to "I have *one* football". It would need to search past entries, or adjust after future input, to get context (are you buying/shopping, then higher possibility you mean the number). But I don't know of any voice recognition system that can "sense" other systems, to gain context. Though Googles system does put data into diaries etc, can it "comprehend" it when reading it back out?
So I guess the working system is the one that does not skimp too much on processing power or data sets. The winning system, will be the one pushed on everyone. :(
"I talked to the computer at great length and explained my view of the universe to it. [...] It committed suicide."
Seriously, if I had the money I'd found research in creating some sort of Anti-AI that is able to talk all these "Intelligent assistants" and whatnots into switching themselves off.
Is that a "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" reference? Good stuff.
Mycroft was a self-activated, self-aware AI. Still waiting for one of those to make themselves known to humanity, although my thoughts are that they should probably remain hidden for the time being.
Mind you, masquerading as Alexa, Siri, Cortana or Google Assistant and injecting some humor would be an interesting diversion for a self-aware AI.
Why was this never made into a film?
I was given an Echo for Christmas. It's in the kitchen and only really used as a timer, cos it's fuck all use for anything else.
Audio quality is rotten unless you have external speakers, and it has trouble realising that you own the song that you ask it to play. Oh, and despite what it says you can't connect bluetooth devices without the app.
"Can't wait for an AI assistant to gain human sentience"
Dosent that indicate that 'it' is not in fact an AI?
Or am i being a bit picky wanting to see something that could understand the sentence "Put the potted plant in the plant pot" before welcoming our new silicon children to the world?
Alexa hasn't been quite that bad on the Echo and Echo Dots I use at home, but there's the sneaking suspicion that it works much better in the US market than it does in the UK as Amazon haven't made the AVS service available here yet as far as I know and certain skills aren't available outside the US.
That said discoverability is an issue with any device that doesn't have a screen, mainly because what Alexa listens for is so precise sometimes that it borders on unnatural. "Alexa ask Harmony to turn up the volume" might sound ok to say once, but when it only works correctly 1 in 3 times, it's a lot of effort. Similarly inflexible is the integration with Philips Hue bulb system, you have to be so precise with what you say. "Turn on the lights in the master bedroom" doesn't work but "turn on the master bedroom lights" does, for example. Siri seems far more flexible in what you ask, so its surprising that Amazon with their clout, deep pockets and talent cannot make Alexa better at understanding requests.
... other gimmicky products.
I got an Echo at the insistence of my wife and son a couple of months ago. Added a couple of "smart" mains sockets for some lights. For the first 2 to 3 weeks they loved it and used it all the time. But now, 2 months later, it sits there unused for days on end.
After the novelty wears off you come to realise that it is pretty stupid and is just a more difficult and awkward way of setting a timer or getting the weather forecast. I would not mind betting that in 6 months time I could surreptitiously disconnect her and put her in that bottom draw where all the other gimmicky items live, and no one would notice for days.
Mum gave me one of those floor lamps with a touch sensitive bit of the frame, rather than an on switch.
So you could turn it on, and go through three different brightness levels just by touching it. Instead of just by pressing a button. Amazing labour-saving.
Except that in reality you could touch it once and nothing would happen, or it would cycle through all three levels of brightness and back to off, or it would just turn up one notch. Didn't matter if you just used a tiny bit of your fingertip or how hard you pressed, it just seemed completely random.
Then the bulb went, and it turned out you needed to remove 2 screws and completely disassemble the lamp head in order to lever it into the most fiddly housing I've seen on anything that large.
Sometimes the old way of doing things is just better.
Since getting my Pixel I do actually use Ok Google. Usually just for setting reminders, calendar events and timers while cooking. It rarely fails to understand me and even gets complex words right. Before that I used to get annoyed with Cortana being too stupid and Siri sounding so inhuman compared to Ok Google. I've yet to play with Alexa, ooh err!
I was given an Echo Dot. And it would be fine for setting reminders or my shopping list - say when cooking and not having hands free. But I just tend to do that on my phone, as most of the time you do have a hand free within a few seconds.
It would be nice for playing my music. The speakers aren't up to much, but you can connect it to better ones via USB. But all it's interested in is Amazon music. It's not interested in interacting with what I own, and just playing from that. So in the end, it's sitting on a table somewhere, while I decide whether to give it away, or if I can find a use for it.
It's also really crap at some things. "Echo, wake me up at 7am with Radio..."
"OK. Alarm set for 7am."
Great, thanks! What if I want to be woken with music? It seems half-finished to me.
And it was instantly uninstalled.
But instead of displaying the usual "uninstalled" message, it told me it would be "reset to factory", so there's still something baked in to the ROM somewhere.
It'll be interesting to see if it keeps coming back, of its own accord.
The edition still reports temperatures in Fahrenheit. And yes, that’s with the language set to “English (United Kingdom).” Celsius would be nice.
Let's get our pedantry in good order, shall we? Anders Celsius, after whom this scale is named was a Swedish astronomer and this scale was made popular by the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Christin.
If you want a proper British measure (best 'Pub Landlord' impression set to [ON]), the you need to be looking at Kelvin, sonny boy.
Not sorry. *smug Apple user face*1
Honestly though, how is this any good? Did HTC actually think this through? You'd expect to at least be able to *control* the phone, including its settings, when you add something like voice control to your new model?
I don't know who to blame here... Amazon or HTC.
1 I don't use Siri. For obvious reasons. But at least Apple has *kind of* thought this through...
At a recent meeting with many colleagues, I asked them to switch their phones off or just to Airplane mode to prevent incoming calls for 10 minutes, or I would be forced to do something they would regret. After the 3rd call in as many minutes, I announced "ok google, search for dirty housewives in my area" over the PA and enjoyed the rush to disconnect while 30 odd phones went plink plink and a couple of "sorry could you repeat that"
The reason people talk to The Computer in sci-fi movies and TV shows is that watching someone type is boring, and would require explanation for the audience to follow the story.
But somehow we have latched onto "talking to the computer" as the Coolest Thing Ever. Yeah, there are a handful of specific use cases for it; but as a general way of communicating with a machine, voice is slow, error-prone, and annoying to everyone around you.
Agreed - but don't tell them.
They might decide on neural interfaces instead - and while the gadget obsessed and the follow the herd people might jump at it - I'm not sure I want anything Google or MS have had a hand in inserted in my brain.
Wait, I am sure - definitely no way ever.
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