Real numbers are hard to come by, but questions are not. Who’s the most recognized of the talking artificially intelligent techno-gadget assistants? Siri. Of those of similar capabilities, which one is most used? Siri? Amazon Alexa? Google’s stupidly named Assistant? Microsoft Cortana? Google’s Bixby?
Bixby? What’s that? Well, more on Bixby in a moment. Norman Winarsky is a very smart guy. He’s also Siri’s godfather so he knows something about the talking AI technology from Siri to Bixby and back. What does he think of Siri?
Surprise And Delight
Talking devices have been around a long time. Smartphones with a talking assistant are not yet a decade old; Siri having been birthed as an iPhone app in early 2010, bought by Apple shortly afterwards, and launched as a part of iOS in iPhone 4s in late 2011. Whatever it is Apple’s executives thought Siri could do seems different than Siri’s founders who envisioned the technology as something of a travel and entertainment concierge.
Concierge for our lifestyles sounds about right, but promise is one thing, and delivery is another. Apple has not delivered the Siri that anybody expected. Bill Gates explains:
[Humans] overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10
Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are better lifestyle concierges than Siri, but all three are lame as a concierge that can do much more than answer questions and perform a dozen dozen or so actions. Winarsky, Siri’s godfather, seems surprised by what Siri cannot do. Is that because 1) Apple let Siri languish? Or, 2) The technology is really, really difficult? Or, 3) Our expectations are out of line with reality?
See Bill Gates’ statement above.
What about Bixby? Think of Siri but on Samsung smartphones and more useless. A few of Siri’s creators left Apple and founded a company called Viv in 2012. Maybe they were not happy with what Apple didn’t do with Siri. Maybe they had a vision. Samsung bought Viv. Why? Viv needs devices. Samsung sells a few hundred million devices capable of using a Siri-like technology named Viv.
With me so far?
What happened to Viv? Well, Samsung was working on its own talking artificially intelligent assistant, so maybe the two mated and birthed Bixby. Let’s go with that. Samsung has many devices which could use a talking artificially intelligent personal assistant– washers, dryers, freezers, refrigerators, televisions, smartphones, and many more. What’s wrong with Bixby is the same thing that is wrong with Siri.
Brian Heater on Samsung’s Galaxy S9:
Bixby is, by far, the most frustrating part of the S9. It’s true, of course, that no voice assistant is perfect, but a full year after Samsung’s smart assistant debuted on the Galaxy S8, it still feels unfinished.
You know. Like Siri.
We shouldn’t be surprised that talking AI devices have yet to take over planet earth. They’re all still somewhat stupid, don’t understand context that humans get when they’re preschoolers, perform only limited functions, and despite having instant access to almost everything and anything on the internet, all have trouble gathering exactly what we humans want when we want it.
Amazon’s Echo works decently from a Pringles-like can in the living room, or a Chicken-of-the-Sea-like can in the kitchen, but Alexa doesn’t have legs and isn’t very mobile. Google’s Assistant answers questions better than Alexa but has less name recognition than Siri. Cortana and Bixby are busts, too.
Sure, we can all agree that talking devices are the future. But whose future? My great grandchildren? Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by what Siri cannot do and be more surprised that we humans are complex creatures not easily mimicked by machines and software. After all, a few voters elected a very wealthy man who seldom reads, doesn’t speak in complete sentences, and espouses only the same tired superlatives.
Siri godfather Winarsky:
Surprise and delight is kind of missing right now