More and more digital assistants or digital butlers are getting ready to take errands off our hands! The number of these digital personal assistants is on the rise with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, Facebook’s M, Alphabet’s (Google) Assistant and Home, Microsoft’s Cortana leading the race. Thanks to deeper artificial intelligence, Google Assistant is predicted to have an upper hand over all other assistants. As per some reports, it is going to be the ultimate digital butler.
Digital Butlers to Spread Their Wings into Our Daily Lives
These personality-filled, voice-activated digital assistants have already started conquering the task life of digital freaks. These intelligent digital helpers residing in our smartphones, smart watches, and other smart devices are capable of providing precise voice-activated information. We need not search the web to find solutions to our daily assignments. These butlers will proficiently and efficiently accomplish our daily errands based on what they know about us.
We can just orally instruct these digital assistants to dim the lights and lower the thermostat when we leave the house. As these assistants are knowledgeable about our preferences and are aware of our prior experiences, they will provide the right kind of suggestions. Most of our routine chores can be left to these digital butlers. For instance; adding items of groceries to our shopping list, checking weather, playing music, adding items to online shopping cart, reading headlines, sending a text, or booking an Uber, reserving dinner, handling scheduling, providing driving directions, and the list goes on.
Do These Digital Assistants Pose Threats?
These virtual assistants are made smart enough to anticipate and realize our needs and requests. They will return useful and apt info by analysing what we type or say. But are we heading towards a serious privacy and security issue is a relevant and frequently asked question.
The Guardian reports that with the advent of digital assistants, humans tend to think less when it comes to handling even simple daily tasks. These assistants are enabled by an expert super platform that houses a huge amount of our personal data. Their capabilities are derived from these data. As we start depending on these butlers more, the super platform gathers and stores more data on us and can ultimately ‘serve’ us more efficiently by even predicting our needs.
The pertinent question here is: are we becoming instruments in fostering the super-platform’s financial interests, in the disguise of them acing as our assistants? These digital assistants are sure to have strong inclination to promote their masters’ interests. Hence, they are ultimately (mis)leading us into the services and products that their smart platform wishes to endorse. Another argument is that by giving ourselves to one of these butlers, these super platforms can even parse our political beliefs and alter them to their advantage. It can affect our world views, outlook, feelings and behaviour.
Before we increasingly get addicted to these digital butlers to get our mundane tasks done, it is worthwhile to ponder on these issues.
More about the Big 5
As we already know, the Big 5 (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet and Microsoft) are scrambling to get lead in the digital butler race. Each of these tech titans is ardently trying to make their assistant as our head butler. Let’s have a quick look at each of these butlers.
Alphabet’s Google Assistant – Hailed as the mother of all voice-activated assistants, Google Assistant boasts better sociable and conversational interface when compared to other assistants. “The assistant is conversational—an ongoing two-way dialogue between you and Google that understands your world and helps you get things done.” Google
Alphabet is established as the parent company of Google.
Amazon’s Alexa – Alexa, the intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, is made popular by Amazon Echo. Alexa-enabled Echo is a hands-free speaker that can be controlled with your voice. The wake word for Echo is ‘Alexa’. This intelligent personal assistant can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation hub.
Apple’s Siri – Siri is a virtual assistant with a voice-controlled natural language interface that uses sequential inference and contextual awareness to help perform personal tasks for iOS users. “The software, both in its original version and as an iOS feature, adapts to the user’s individual language usage and individual searches (preferences) with continuing use, and returns results that are individualized.” Wikipedia
Facebook’s M – Facebook M is a virtual assistant embedded within the Facebook Messenger app. In addition to using artificial intelligence to complete its tasks, M is poweredby real-human assistance.
Microsoft’s Cortana – Cortana, is the personal assistant for Windows 10. Cortana will also be available on Android and iOS. They do a great job in location-based reminders. It can set reminders, recognize natural voice without the requirement for keyboard input, and answer questions using information from the Bing search engine (e.g., current weather and traffic conditions, sports scores, biographies). Wikipedia
Other minor players are also entering the field of digital assistants, all set to take errands off our hands.
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