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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

Amazon Echo Show: Tell Alexa to Show You Things!

We could also adjust the bass, mid-range and treble on Echo Show

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Google , US, Alexa, Echo
The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA

If you have got used to talking to Alexa on Amazon Echo smart speakers by now, the next step is to meet her in person, virtually.

Seeing the stupendous growth in the smart speakers market in India (Amazon Echo led the Indian market with 59 per cent share in 2018), the retail giant has brought Echo Show with a 10-inch HD display, built-in smart home hub and a speaker system for Rs 22,999 to the country.

Video calling and streaming has slowly but steadily been on the rise in India and with Echo Show, just ask Alexa to show you video news bulletins, music videos or make hands-free video calls.

Essentially a voice-first device, the device comes with a new speaker with dual 2-inch neodymium drivers, a passive bass radiator, and Dolby processing to deliver super stereo sound with powerful bass.

To make the device more efficient on differentiating users’ voices from the ambient sound, Amazon has added an eight-microphone array and “far-field” technology.

The Echo Show has a built-in 5 MP camera that supports high-definition video calling and is great for hands-free calls to friends and family who have an Echo Spot, Echo Show, or the Alexa App.

You can also Use “Drop In” feature like a two-way household intercom; connect from your Echo Show to another supported Echo device in the playroom to let the kids know dinner is ready, or you can “Drop In” from your app to your Echo Show at home to check in on the living room to watch over kids.

Connect with friends and family around the world through support for Skype voice and video calling.

Setting up Echo Show is easy. Just follow these three simple steps.

Google , US, Alexa
In this March 2, 2016, file photo, David Limp, Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices, pushes down on an Echo Dot in San Francisco. VOA

Plug the power adapter into Echo Show and then into a power outlet. Place the Echo Show on your countertop, side table or island (the company recommends placing it about six inches away from a wall).

Follow the prompts that appear on the screen to select a language, connect to Wi-Fi and log in to your Amazon account.

When it comes to music, you can choose from Amazon Music, Saavn or Hungama. You can also access music videos through a direct integration with Hungama video.

For movies, Amazon Prime Video is handy. Ask Alexa for movies playing near you, and watch the trailer before heading to the theatre.

We could also adjust the bass, mid-range and treble on Echo Show.

With a built-in “Zigbee” smart home hub, the Echo Show makes it simple to set up and manage light bulbs, plugs and switches and other smart home devices.

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Just say, “Alexa, discover my devices,” and Echo Show will discover and set up compatible devices so you can control them with your voice or manage them on-screen.

Get things done like reorder groceries, add items to a shopping list, check Google, Outlook and Office 365 calendar, find pictures of anything on the web, track stocks, check the weather and so much more – all on the screen.

Conclusion: Facebook’s video calling devices Portal and Portal+ would soon be out. Before that, Amazon has put up an impressive show, creating an enhanced audio-visual experience. It is time to tell Alexa to show you things! (IANS)