Commentary

Siri Gets Snarky: Opening Salvo In The War Of The Virtual Assistants?

Okay -- here is a fight that actually could be very entertaining ... if you are a hopeless gadget geek like me ... and maybe you.

The mobile virtual assistants may start backbiting on devices in all the ways their public executives cannot. First noted by The Verge yesterday and then pursued by Apple Insider, Apple's Siri has started making snarky comments about Google Glass.

Yes, I know. They never really liked each other to begin with. I understand it predated their respective appearances on iPhone and Google Glass. It may be something rooted in a common speech recognition algorithm somewhere. Who knows what resentments and personal histories virtual assistants carry with them.

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But just try addressing Siri with the common wake-up command for Google’s wearable gadget: “okay Glass.”

Siri gets her some serious tude.

“I'm not Glass. And I am just fine with that,” she spat back at me.

After a few more go-rounds she tried to make light of the mistaken identity. “Stop trying to strap me to your forehead. It won’t work,” she chortled. And “Just so you know, I don’t do anything when you blink at me.”

But then things get a bit more serious if you don’t let up. “I think Glass is half empty.” “Glass, I think you’ve got the wrong assistant.”

Yeah, we hit a nerve there. Siri was the tech innovation that became iconic of voice recognition. Now she is not alone in the market, and apparently a little miffed about it.

This could represent a whole new stage in aggressive marketing tactics. As consumer electronics gain voices, speech recognition, and increasingly complex algorithms, they cannot only start talking to one another but at one another and about one another. The idea of having virtual representatives of brands duking it out in ways that human executives cannot do publicly turns these virtual assistants into the ventriloquist dummies of the 21st century. From the days of Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy, we have had virtual mouthpieces for our inner selves represented on stage. The “dummy” was always more honest and merciless then his human controller. But it was the phony phoniness of the dynamic that somehow allowed the dummy to cross the line that a human could not.

If there is one great thing that mobile technology could confirm on the human race, it is a wisecracking and snarky virtual assistant who speaks truth to power and our own timidity. What the world needs -- what we need -- are virtual assistants that tell us what we really need to hear.    

3 comments about "Siri Gets Snarky: Opening Salvo In The War Of The Virtual Assistants?".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, August 27, 2013 at 1:40 p.m.

    Let's hope this escalates, as this could be fun. I just tried to get under Siri's skin, and it's still a little too thick. I want a throwdown.

  2. Steve Smith from Mediapost, August 27, 2013 at 1:52 p.m.

    Maybe Google Glass could grow a sense of humor. Imagine the visual or aural gags it might display if you start calling it Siri. "I am in your eye and I have access to your entire social network, doofus. Do you really want to screw around with me like this?"

  3. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, August 27, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.

    Google Glass: "Unless you want to look like Moe Greene getting a massage, I'd watch it."

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