Google has hired a team of writers from Pixar and The Onion who helped make Google Assistant, which powers its Home device, sound more human.
The hope is that humans will form "emotional bonds" with the technology. An emotional bond would prompt the individual to use the virtual assistant more often and be more likely to share information and make purchases.
"People are good at anthropomorphizing objects, and this tendency can be enhanced by the right auditory and visual cues," writes Christopher Mims, reporter at The Wall Street Journal. "Getting it right also requires paying attention to details such as latency — humans have no patience for it in conversation — and tone of voice."
Mims reports that Google Assistant and others like Alexa from Amazon Echo do not use "true" AI in that the technology literally understands the words that makeup the conversations. He writes that these AI assistants use scripted responses, although Google leans on a massive search database it calls the Knowledge Graph and works to improve on natural-language processing.
We are seeing the beginning of chat bots as friends and pet robots. In a September interview, Ryan Gavin, GM Search and Cortana Marketing, told SearchBlog about a Microsoft chat bot named XiaoIce based on Bing search technology and Big Data.
XiaoIce draws on AI, social media, and machine learning. The average exchange between XiaoIce and a user has 26 turns. One in four individuals who have conversed with her have told XiaoIce "I love you," according to Microsoft.
About 13.4% want XiaoIce to guess what they are thinking, 11.8% say they love to hear Xiaoice sing, and 10% want to know if XiaoIce is a real human being.
She has counted approximately 1.5 million sheep to help users fall asleep, and each day about one in 10 who speak with her seek emotional comfort from XiaoIce.
Aside from chat bots, some studies suggest robots can yield benefits similar to owning actual pets, reports Mim, who says people are looking toward the technology to help fill a void.