Friday, March 7, 2014

I love 'Her'. I mean the movie! :)

Curious to see what Holywood has done to the concept of conversational systems, we went to watch the movie 'Her' as a team. Our team comprises of people who work in Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing and more importantly conversational systems. I think 'Her' adds on to Steven Speilberg's movie 'AI', in that it takes emotions on a computer to a new high. 'Her' is a love story between a man, Theodore Twonbly, who recently went through a break up and an impending divorce and his new computer which has a conversational operating system. It takes a woman's voice as per his request and calls 'herself' Samantha. I think she also becomes a woman there as the latter part of the movie suggests! She does a lot of chores like reading and sorting emails and interrupts him by calling his attention by making something like a phone call when there is something important (like a mail that needs attention). He interacts with her primarily through a bluetooth-like headset and a handy smartphone like device. Most of the movie shows their interaction happening via these devices giving an idea of the two talking over phone forever. She gets to see the world via the camera on his 'phone' and makes sense of it. She can draw pictures on his phone's screen. Yay. She is multi-modal. More importantly, she has a personality and displays emotions.

The interesting bit is when she starts developing emotions and begins to feel things for her 'master'. Because she is nice to him and listens to him, he starts reciprocating her feelings too. This leads to all kind of issues: will the society accept this idea?, are we ourselves comfortable with the idea of dating conversational virtual characters?, is it a real thing?, is it the same as human-human dating?, what if we fall in love?, what next?, what about sex?, are we exclusive?, how are we going to handle breakups - is it the same as uninstalling a software program or like your laptop being stolen? Equally interesting are Samantha' s concerns about not having a human body, feeling jealous, being attracted to other users, and remaining exclusive to Theodore

It also turns the spotlight on an interesting question: how we humans will view our companions of the future and what kind of relationship we might want with it.

Watch the trailer here:

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Microsoft's answer to Siri and Now..!

Microsoft is reportedly working on an answer to Apple's iPhone voice assistant, Siri and Google's assistant, Now. The new voice assistant will ship with Windows 8.1. smartphones. From the video (see below), it looks like Cortana will learn about the mobile user by asking a few questions and adapt its behaviour to the needs, preferences and interests of the user. It looks like it will perform various services like making calls, sending messages, setting reminders, alarms, checking mails, stock prices, etc similar to what Siri and Now do. What is interesting is that with this news, the holy trinity of Smartphone OS - Android, iOS and Windows have all reaffirmed that the next generation mobile interface is via speech. 

Watch Cortana at work here in the YouTube video below..

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