Voice Assistant Devices – Too Human-Like?

Voice Assistant Devices — Gadgets making life easier!

According to one worldwide research, now more than 200 million homes have smart devices providing voice-controlled access to the internet. Included in this list are the talking virtual assistants comes with the smartphones, kitchen appliances, cars, oh, that’s a lot of Alexas and Siris.

We are tempted to think these voice assistant devices should behave and talk like humans, as talking is a basic part of being human. It may seem that this is a very easy way to interact and converse with our daily use devices, replicating genuinely realistic and intelligent human conversations is not easy, its a very tedious task to achieve. But do they need to be actually sound like more human? “NO,” says the recent research, because creating a machine or a device sound like a human is unnecessary and is even deceiving and dishonest. Instead, we should rethink the purpose and learn to be content with the benefits of them being and act as a machine.

.The concept of “humaneness” is being talked and promoted often by speech technology designers. And they are the reason behind the recent advanced developments in the artificial voice technology, which have resulted in the increasingly human-like sounding systems’ voices, which blurred the line between human and machine. Not just stopping there, they are making a continuous effort to make systems language and voice to sound more human!

Take this, for example, we in our conversations in order to signal that we are listening to the conversation or that we intend to start speaking soon, we use fillers like “hmm” and “uh”. But recently the most famous Google Duplex has incorporated these fillers too, in order to sound more human-like. Why is this struggle to sound natural so important?

The inspirations from pop culture have maybe inspired us to go after this goal of making machines sound and behave like us. The notion of conversing with machines has always wondered us on our TV, films and literature for decades.

There has always been an interest to make technological developments to achieve something like having conversations with machines on different popular topics such as sports, politics, fashion and technology. In this line, Amazon has launched the Alexa Prize to award people who can build social bots that can converse engagingly and intelligently with humans, at least for 20 minutes.

These types of award competitions boost developments which would bring state of the art, advanced technologies and also they bring along planned and unplanned benefits.

We interact with other humans to get things done and to build and maintain good relationships with one another. Similarly, humans have always tried to use machines for the same purpose. And that’s what has raised ethical concerns.

Going after this goal of making machines sound natural like us will become unnecessary and dead-end tasks. Men can never achieve this, humans are humans and machines are machines. Anyone who tried a conversation with today’s systems like Amazon Echo or Google Home can easily understand this.

So the idea of humanness voice may seem fun but it can be deceptive. The tech companies should consider that these technologies can be misused to deceive and fool people into thinking that they are conversing with a human which could lead to undesirable consequences.

Gazing beyond humanness

Instead of constantly going after humanness, we can accept the limitations of machines, and embrace them as they are themselves, and interact with them as they are merely tools that help us get some tasks done.

Human-like voices should not be considered as the gold standard for interaction, rather we should focus on making the machine conversation more intelligible and useful. This will shift our energy to something that is quite attainable.

We may not know what’s coming in the future, perhaps humans will change and develop a liking to have conversations with robots and machines and not looking for a robot that can replace their human friend.

Machines that sounds humans should be used restrictedly, only where the application is really required such as in healthcare applications. If the aim is to improve human-like voices for this purposes then it makes sense. 

What do you think about the voice assistant devices? Let’s know in the comments.

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