A.I.? No, we’re not there yet…

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When we moved into our new home, it seemed a good idea to get one of these assistants like Alexa or Google Home.  Since we needed to buy most things new, it may as well be “smart” things that can be managed with voice commands.   So we have purchased smart lights, blinds, refrigerator, garage door opener etc.  To control all these smart things we had to decide what system we wanted to use.  There are many choices, but the two big ones are Alexa from Amazon and Google Home.  We choose the Google Home Mini and I started setting up things.  After a while we were able to turn on/off the lights, close/open the blinds, play music etc. all by just asking out loud.  Especially keeping track of a shopping list proved useful; no more looking for a pen and paper to write it down.  Just tell the friendly lady in the box to add milk to the shopping list.   At the grocery store we can pull up our shopping list on our phone and buy what’s on there.  No, I am not letting the friendly lady shop for us and deliver it to our house; that is just too decadent…

However, this “Artificial Intelligence” Google Home Assistant is definitely not there yet.  She often gets things wrong, and even if we say things very clearly 3 times in a row, we are met with the answer: “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to do that … yet”.  Surprising, especially when she’s done it several times before.  Then there is the fact she really doesn’t interact like a real person, so don’t use slang, speak the command exactly as it was defined and don’t deviate.  So “Open the blinds in the bedroom” and not “Yo, can you let some light poor into the room?”  Yeah I guess that last command requires “Real” intelligence, but If I replace the word “blind” with “shades”, I’m already out of luck since nothing will happen.  Luckily for me, I can l make a list of commands that do the same thing; they call those shortcuts.

Then there’s the updates you didn’t ask for.  The technology is new, and I understand there is a need for frequent updates, but they are playing havoc with my understanding of this thing.  I had setup shortcuts, different ways of saying the same thing, so it would be easier for us to interact with Google Home.  Gepke was happy with my shortcuts and used them gratefully.  Then Google goes and replaces “Shortcuts” with “Routines”.  After being confused for a minute (OK, 20 minutes..) when I tried to manage an existing command, I caught up and changed it in “Routines”.   Fine, I test it and it works … for me, but not for Gepke.  Routines are now private, and she can no longer use the shortcut/routine I setup for her.  Either she has to setup her own routines, or I do everything twice, really?  From what I hear from friends Alexa is not much better, I know of people where after a year it just sits there gathering dust, or is used as an expensive radio.

All in all this assistant is trying my patience frequently, and I am beginning to wonder if she worth the brain damage.  If she could keep up a conversation from her end, but she has less creativity than a 3 year old and it feels a lot like interacting with a toddler.  I think we still have a way to go when it comes to the Artificial Intelligence of “Smart” Assistants.  It’s probably like the self-driving car, I don’t really think we’re there yet.



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