“We have to understand how to break the gap of the language of the machine, which is intelligent, and the human, which is also intelligent. It's almost that we have to be able to speak the same language or to try to understand each other.”
We are developing some seriously powerful algorithms. Daily, our machines march up and along the intelligence curve, figuring out patterns within large amounts of data, telling us the best routes to take to avoid traffic and managing our health files. The future is already here—we are swimming in artificial intelligence.
Yet our user experience doesn’t seem to be keeping up. The human-machine relationship is still awkward and screen based. Yes, UX development has enabled our internet experience to go from a text based burden to a virtual wonderland, however the recent improvements in AI require a different approach. It has become very clear that in order for us to take the next leap in our technological age, our machines need to learn how to talk—and talk well.
Siri is an early prototype and she improves with each release. Alexa is also a step forward. However, while each of these AIs can take commands and give a pleasant, even sometimes quirky response, they’re not truly conversational. What our machines need are personalities that not only speak to us, but give humans a sense of well-being. We don’t truly trust our machines, they feel like black boxes filled with strange magic that could destroy us if only they wanted to, and this is because our user experience is lacking in the conversation department.
If we ever want to truly integrate AI with human life, we’re going to need to look at the user experience in a whole new way. Rather than have a web portal to show people around, machines will need to have a personality that leads us through dialogue.
Chatbots currently exist primarily as fun toys and gadgets floating around the web, but soon, every product will need one as its user interface. Take the truly hands-free automotive experience. Right now the onboard software for most cars includes a navigation system, stereo and Bluetooth to access the mobile device of the driver. While we can give verbal commands to each of these applications, we still have to manually select buttons in order to operate them. Want to hear your voice mail? You need to be in the correct mode, which usually means looking down at your device or a screen! This can only lead to distraction.
What if instead, when the car powers up, a Chatbot begins the experience, asking you how you are and where you’d like to go? The Chatbot would then give you the navigation towards your destination as well as road conditions and could even let you know if any of your friends have checked in on FB in locations near your route. The next step is telling the bot to play your voicemail and then what radio station you want, or even launch a playlist in Spotify.
This seem too futuristic? It shouldn’t. This technology exists, it simply requires us to think of the user experience as conversational. Voice and speech recognition software have made leaps and bounds the past few years with regards to quality. The next step is creating conversational AIs that can handle commands as well as converse with us, providing a satisfying human-machine interaction.
The need to rethink our user experience as conversational became clear to me when I was researching conversational AIs while writing my second novel, eHuman Deception, in which a main character, the AMMA, is an AI. I wanted the human characters in my story to have satisfying dialogue with her, not only because that’s what my readers would want, but also to showcase that the human-machine relationship doesn’t have to be dreadful. It can actually be quite satisfying. As my research progressed, I realized that while Siri and Alexa are quite wondrous, they’re not worthy of being characters in a novel, which to me means they haven’t yet passed the true conversational test.
The next generation of conversational AIs need to be novel worthy characters that lead humans to believe that they’re trustworthy. Not so they can take over the world, but so that we can truly partner with our machines to remake the world of the 21st century.
And good conversation is key.
Good thing I'm so naturally chatty :-)