Amazon’s 2018 Super Bowl spot featured virtual assistant Alexa experiencing a very human problem of having to call in sick to work. While a humorous concept, it’s a fictional scenario based on a very real, growing trend: Virtual assistants now have names, genders and personalities to make them more relatable and to encourage consumer interaction.
There’s also the example of Replika, the “AI friend that’s always there for you.” This chatbot learns about users by asking questions and then builds profiles in order to have more natural conversations, according to Jeff Malmad, managing director and head of media agency network Mindshare’s Life+ unit, which is focused on emerging technology.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say we’ve reached a point right now where a virtual assistant really knows who you are in terms of providing information and suggestions that a human could,” Malmad said. “I don’t think the Turing Test has happened from a bot perspective. Replika is helping to get closer, but I don’t think we’re seeing that personal relationship with an assistant yet. We’re starting to see seeds being laid.”
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