Do you remember the Iphone 4s? It was one of the more subdued updates to the iPhone in its — let’s feel old — 16-year history. Hardly anything important changed compared to 4… except that it included, exclusively, Siri.
seen with perspective, It was quite a pyrrhic set-up, but at the time, Siri swept us off our feet.. His demonstration videos, Apple’s greatest specialty, led one to think that the future was going through something like this: voice-based virtual assistants. Like the one that Google was quick to present or the one that Amazon decided to use as the cornerstone of its digital ecosystem.
In my case, I remember thinking “…and this in 2011, who knows where we are in another ten years”. Not ten have passed, but twelve, and what sounds is a sad trumpet chord: Siri has not evolved to the same level, not even remotely, as the rest of Apple’s products, nor of what the technology industry in general has done.
His competition is not much better either. Above all, for comparative tort.
They are there, but they do not grow too much or excite anyone
It is not that Siri, Alexa or Google – or well, especially Siri – have not evolved in these years. The thing is it is not reliable to use an assistant like this in too many circumstances nor does it have real depth. How many times have we ended an interaction after hearing “This is what I found on the Internet about…”.
Microsoft also introduced Cortana to change everything by integrating it into Windows, both for computers and mobile phones, with little experience and zero relevance. Died in 2021.
Now it sounds prosaic to think that Microsoft is not going to incorporate part of the GPT-4 and subsequent technology into a conversational interface in its ecosystem, not only for the generation and synthesis of written text. We could doubt Ballmer, but nobody doubts Nadella’s strategic vision. The same as thinking that Google is not going to do the same with Bard after his announcement of a generative AI integrated into Workspace.
The problem for voice assistants is that 10 years ago we were amazed, 5 years ago we were already somewhat disappointed, but with the hope of the smart speakers that were about to arrive; and now no one talks about them, because OpenAI, Microsoft, Google and a few others monopolize that conversation. They are there, they are used, they fulfill a role, but they do not grow too much or excite anyone. The impact of the voice assistant is not far from having a somewhat faster connector.
From Amazon we know that a good part of the layoffs that it recently announced will fall on the staff that is in charge of Alexa, which beyond the initial enthusiasm has ended up being used mainly to set timers and ask for some music. And not for more advanced uses that we couldn’t do a decade ago.
Let’s not even talk about getting used to buying compulsively with the voice, something that would have made more profitable his enormous commitment to this technology. Hardware, usually sold at rock-bottom prices, doesn’t sound like a big deal on its own either. It has been very common to find Echo Dot for 20 euros. If at 20 euros we remove VAT, shipping, packaging, materials, assembly… What does Amazon have left?
The fortunes of Google’s engineers in charge of its operating systems for home environments have not been much better. According to The New York Times, 16% of them have fallen on the layoff list, which only affected 6% of their workforce.
On the opposite side, OpenAI has made its conversational interface popular from day one, helping a multitude of professions to do their work more efficiently and quickly, from programmers to journalists, including lawyers and creatives. Midjourney or Stable Diffusion have achieved the same in visual creation as a product of immediate results.
voice assistants They made headlines talking about their future possibilities and gradually deflated over time until they were limited to a few basic uses that have evolved little.. The new wave of AI-based tools is getting people talked about for their possibilities of the present, not the future.
A year is a world for which ChatGPT or Midjourney can evolve, but a decade has served for Siri, Alexa or the Google assistant to evolve little.
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Featured Image | Omid Armin on Unsplash.