AI and VI what makes us FEEL like our tech is human?

Answering the following questions:

  1. Explain the differences between the Star Trek android character named Data, and existing voice assistants (like Google Assistant, Apple Siri, or Amazon Alexa). How are they similar? How are they different?
  2. Compare and contrast the expectations of the android and the voice assistants. What were the expected behaviors of each? What happened when those expected behaviors were not met? How did you react?
  3. The uncanny valley is a theory that describes a “level of realism in artificial life forms in which the human observer has a negative reaction.” At which point for each of these interfaces did the user/audience encounter the uncanny valley? Did you find this surprising? If so, why? If not, why not?
  4. These three sources of popular culture are artifacts of different eras. How do you think the public’s expectations of voice interfaces have evolved since then? (2001 was 1968; This Star Trek episode was aired in 1989; Amazon Echo was 2014.)
  5. Each of these voice interfaces have a “life” of their own…or do they? What is your perspective on the identities and personalities of Data, Alexa, and LaMDA? If you had to rank them on a 1-10 scale of mechanistic (1) to humanistic (10), where would each of them stand, and why?
  6. In what circumstances would it be better to design a voice interface that was emotionally appealing? When would it be better to design something more utilitarian?
  7. What’s one major takeaway you’ve learned about designing for voice interfaces?

The Star Trek Android character named Data, and existing voice assistants (like Google Assistant, Apple Siri, or Amazon Alexa) differ in what seems to be Data’s ability to Keep trinkets for sentimental value or form an intimate relationship with another being.  From what I can tell, the point of the character is almost to humanize the android to make him more exciting and create emotional views with the other “crew” members which probably makes for a more interesting storyline. There is an episode of the TV show “The big bang theory” in which the character Raj falls in love with Siri and uses their verbal relationship as a sexual one until he finally goes off to meet her in a dream and realizes how powerful the mind can be when his reality crashes in on the fantasy. The bottom line is, that I believe humans are capable of connecting with anything they set their minds to but an Android-like Data is still a ways off into the future and not comparable to the current Voice Assistants Siri, Google, or Alexa.

To compare and contrast the expectations of the android and the voice assistants, I think the android was not initially expected to exceed limits however the episode showed an evident bond it had made with fellow crew members through shared experience and time spent in the field. This resulted in emotional connections which forced the crew to look at Data as a being or entity and not a possession or object. In the case of voice assistants, I believe their shortcomings are more apparent as they have real limitations on how they can respond or what tasks they can actually accomplish.  I reacted with pleasant satisfaction for the way Star Trek took on a serious world issue with fantasy pawns. I thought the episode was smart and thought-provoking.

I think for the Star Trek Android character Data, audiences reached the “uncanny valley” when he was turned off manually and his arm was removed. It pulls the viewer from movement and eye contact causing them to lose empathy and gain clarity on any part of their judgement that may have been clouded by the realistic look of Data physically. In the case of LaMDA it is the moment when the user realizes the program is built to sound like a human, that realization takes them out of the experience entirely. With Alexa or Siri, this happens when they have to repeat something they misheard or ask the same question multiple times to try to understand and still fail, this causes the user frustration and angst.

Let us talk about expectations. The Star Trek episode was fun to watch because it showed a fantasy perspective of what people, writers, and such in 1968, thought that technology could look like in 2001. I think even with our leaps in technology since the 60s we are not at the point where we are having hearings about androids having rights or not… when we are still having hearings to determine actual human rights. The two are just a very different take on AI in general as Data is more an embodiment of human aesthetics with a computer brain that seems to evolve his programming with experience and exposure to humans while Alexa can have dinner delivered to me in 30 minutes if needed when I say the right phrase but sometimes doesn’t understand my Miami accent. Since 1968 I think people have lowered their expectations of what “affordable” VI can do vs what is just James Bond movie magic for now. 

My perspectives on the identities and personalities of Data, Alexa, and LaMDA are all very different. Data ranks as follows: mechanistic-2, Humanistic-10 because he looks just like a human man, speaks like a human man, and has few viewable mechanical parts. Alexa ranks: mechanistic- 10, Humanistic- 2 because she speaks mostly through a hardware device like a speaker or tablet but she can sound robotically real at times. LaMDA ranks Mechanistic-5, and Humanistic-4 due to ability and intelligent responses. 

There is a vibe, time, and place for everything, or so we are told. As far as Voice  Interfaces, tact should always be a factor in the initial design phase. It should be about a soothing voice for a meditation app or an upbeat loud voice for a guided workout. I think bose examples are both emotionally appealing and utilitarian in a way. For things like recipes or directions, the emotional infusion is great and always an added experiential aspect, but not needed to get you from point A to point B.

One major takeaway I have learned about designing interfaces is that emotional connection is very important, it can be the difference between people supporting your design and caring for it like their own family members, and people using and tossing your design aside like something easily replaceable. We make our technology a part of our daily lives, we take it with us everywhere we go, and no different from a child losing a balloon, is an adult losing their cellphone…tears, anger, and usually a meltdown of sorts. People dress they’re cellphones in Gucci and Prada because it is an extension of themselves, and Voice Interfaces have to engage in a way that resounds to make a significant mark.

Published by steviemanso13

My name is Stephanie Sanchez-Manso (Stevie Manso to be able to get a good domain name, and well, because it's fun) and I am studying to be a Digital Designer and Creative Producer at The University of Colorado Denver. I illustrate, paint, fabricate, illuminate and digitalize as creatively as possible. I consider myself a creative problem solver and dedicated producer with high attention to detail. I enjoy building color palettes, logo conception and design as well as typography. I am currently sharpening my photo and video editing skills and this site will serve to exhibit my design skills as I continue to build them and my brand "EyeDiass". Follow me down the design rabbit hole for some examples of what I am learning and how I can apply them.

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