Good vs. Better at Bad

Joe Cieplinski:

I say this with no small amount of respect for how hard this technology is and how far it has come recently. I’m as excited as the next geek when it comes to the future of AI and voice recognition. I think it’s all super cool.

But it’s not good. Not for most people. It’s barely past the point of being a parlor trick, if we’re being honest. Answering trivia questions? Turning on the lights? There’s a reason even early adopters generally resort to using these devices for a small set of simple tasks. That’s about all they can do reliably.

This is a fair point in the battle between virtual assistant technologies. We’re a long way from being able to treat them as actual assistants, rather than voice-based ways to add items to a list of reminders.

But I maintain that, even if Amazon and Google aren’t that much closer to a fully assistive software or hardware product, the ways in which Siri frequently fails are unacceptable. It does not maintain context; it is often disobedient, inexplicable, and incompetent. This stuff is hard, absolutely, but it also fails far too often — and inconsistently — at things that ought to be entirely trivial.