Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

‘Hey’ Used to Be for Horses

M.G. Siegler:

I live in a house with both the Echo and the Home. And I’m always testing out Siri to see what she can and cannot do in relation to the competition. It’s just so much nicer to invoke Alexa than the others. And I’m certain a part of it is not having to add that extra wake word.

It also happens to be an awful word. Hey. Every time I hear it, I think back to growing up when my parents would make the dreadful parenting joke — which was really more of a reprimand. “‘Hey’ is for horses.” These days, we’re not only letting our children say “hey”, we’re basically forcing them to.

Not only that, but with the anthropomorphization of assistant software, I think the “Hey” can be a little demeaning as well.

There’s something about all of this software that feels like it’s still a prototype. A proof of concept, and little more. It’s not just Siri — it’s everything. And, while today’s virtual assistants are better at parsing natural language commands, they’re still more verbose and far more particular than how we actually speak to other people. Alexa’s new brief mode is a step in the right direction, I think, as is its lack of a “Hey”. But there’s still so far to go.