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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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alexa, siri, amazon echo
"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)

Next Story

Hundreds of Alexa-Enabled Devices Contribute to Growth of Amazon

Alexa is now available in vehicles from automakers like Audi, BMW, Ford, and Toyota

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Amazon
Amazon announced integrations with several new automotive brands at the CES 2020. VOA

There are now hundreds of millions of Alexa-enabled devices out there – a huge increase from 100 million Alexa-powered devices the company announced last year in January.

It include Amazon’s own lines of Echo speakers, Fire tablets and Fire TV streamers, as well as third-party devices like wearables, TVs and computers.

“Much of this growth has been fueled by the continued invention of developers and device makers, all of whom make Alexa even better for customers,” Amazon said in a statement at CES 2020.

There are now more than 100,000 Alexa-compatible smart home products from more than 9,500 unique brands, more than 100,000 skills from Alexa developers, and hundreds of products with Alexa built-in

“Meanwhile, content providers like Apple TV+, Disney+, Peloton, and YouTube TV have helped produce an even richer, more diverse experience on Fire TV, which now has more than 40 million monthly active users,” the company added.

Alexa is now available in vehicles from automakers like Audi, BMW, Ford, and Toyota.

Amazon
There are now hundreds of millions of Amazon Alexa-enabled devices out there – a huge increase from 100 million Alexa-powered devices the company announced last year in January. Wikimedia Commons

Amazon announced integrations with several new automotive brands at the CES 2020.

Automobili Lamborghini is bringing Alexa to its Huracan Evo range starting in 2020, and Rivian will integrate Alexa into its first two all-electric vehicles, the R1S and R1T, as well as its upcoming fleet of 100,000 all-electric Amazon delivery vans. (IANS)