Giving Google’s new digital assistant a human touch will be among its top challenges.
One of the first things Genevieve Bell did after bringing home an Amazon Echo was ask the smart speaker to set a timer. After the Echo replied in its soft, reassuring female voice, Bell told the device “thank you.”
“When was the last time you said ‘thank you’ to Google search?” asked Bell, Intel’s longtime cultural anthropologist and corporate strategist. “There’s something about speech that’s human.”
Bell’s experience points to both the promise and the peril of Google’s new effort to create its own digital butler, simply dubbed “Google assistant,” which it hopes will become capable of natural, two-way conversation with people. Several experts in conversational software said Google could make itself an even more intimate part of users’ lives by offering this kind of technology. But, they noted, reaching this goal won’t be easy — especially when it comes to adding a human touch.