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Adding Human-Like Features to Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa may Actually Disappoint Users

During the study, Sundar found that chat bots that had human features -- such as a human avatar -- but lacked interactivity, disappointed people who used it

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"People are pleasantly surprised when a chat bot with fewer human cues has higher interactivity," said Sundar. Wikimedia

An Indian American researcher-led team has found that giving human touch to chat bots like Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa may actually disappoint users.

Just giving a chat bot human name or adding human-like features to its avatar might not be enough to win over a user if the device fails to maintain a conversational back-and-forth with that person, according to S. Shyam Sundar, Co-director of Media Effects Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University.

“People are pleasantly surprised when a chat bot with fewer human cues has higher interactivity,” said Sundar.

“But when there are high human cues, it may set up your expectations for high interactivity – and when the chat bot doesn’t deliver that – it may leave you disappointed,” he added. In fact, human-like features might create a backlash against less responsive human-like chat bots.

siri, amazon echo, alexa
Because there is an expectation that people may be leery of interacting with a machine, developers typically add human names to their chat bots — for example, Apple’s Siri — or programme a human-like avatar to appear when the chat bot responds to a user. Flickr

During the study, Sundar found that chat bots that had human features — such as a human avatar — but lacked interactivity, disappointed people who used it. However, people responded better to a less-interactive chat bot that did not have human-like cues.

High interactivity is marked by swift responses that match a user’s queries and feature a threaded exchange that can be followed easily.

According to Sundar, even small changes in the dialogue, like acknowledging what the user said before providing a response, can make the chat bot seem more interactive.

Because there is an expectation that people may be leery of interacting with a machine, developers typically add human names to their chat bots — for example, Apple’s Siri — or programme a human-like avatar to appear when the chat bot responds to a user.

amazon echo, alexa, siri
In fact, human-like features might create a backlash against less responsive human-like chat bots. Wikimedia

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, also found that just mentioning whether a human or a machine is involved — or, providing an identity cue — guides how people perceive the interaction.

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For the study, the researchers recruited 141 participants through Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowd-sourced site that allows people to get paid to participate in studies. Sundar said the findings could help developers improve acceptance of chat technology among users. “There’s a big push in the industry for chat bots,” said Sundar.

“They’re low-cost and easy-to-use, which makes the technology attractive to companies for use in customer service, online tutoring and even cognitive therapy — but we also know that chat bots have limitations,” he added. (IANS)

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Weather Man Gets Interrupted by Siri During Broadcast

The "Raise to speak" feature can be activated from the Settings app on the Apple Watch > Siri > Raise to speak

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Siri
Apple's Siri. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

During a broadcast on BBC, meteorologist Tomasz Schafernaker was sharing a weather forecast for snowfall in Minneapolis and Denver in the US, when he got interrupted by Siri.

Although Tomasz said that there will be snow, Siri on his Apple Watch somehow said that there is no snow in the forecast.

Tomasz defended Siri’s contradictory weather report by saying that it might not know the right location, 9to5mac.com reported on Saturday.

“Yeah but it probably doesn’t know what place I’m talking about,” Tomasz replied.

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FILE – Apple’s App Store app is seen in Baltimore, MD., March 19, 2018. VOA

Tomasz said in a short post on Twitter that he didn’t manually activate Siri, admitting later in the same thread that the “Raise to speak” option was actually enabled.

Apple Watch allows Siri activation in a number of ways. You can press and hold the Digital Crown, or just move your wrist up and say “Hey Siri”.

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Beginning with watchOS 5, the Apple Watch Series 3 and newer models can activate Siri with a new option called “Raise to speak,” so users no longer need to say the “Hey, Siri” command.

The “Raise to speak” feature can be activated from the Settings app on the Apple Watch > Siri > Raise to speak. (IANS)