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article imageAre voice assistants making us more ill-mannered?

By Tim Sandle     Aug 24, 2019 in Technology
Is our increased use (and reliance) upon voice assistants making us ruder and more impatient? Will the trend change the more we use such devices in the future, or will this alter as technology becomes more interactive? A new survey assesses.
The research question posed centers on the way we issue out instructions (or 'orders') to digital voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, and whether our increased use of demanding things of machines is having the effect of making us less polite (such as the topic flagged in an article published on Gizmodo). Information systems researchers based at Brigham Young University decided to investigate this, by polling 274 adults the focus was not on how we interact with machines, but with whether we are becoming ruder to each other (that is, has the rise in voice assistants made us ruder to each other)?
The good news is, for societal relations, is that artificially-intelligent digital assistants have not led to adult humans becoming apparently ruder to other humans. At least not yet. While there was no impact upon adults, other research suggests that children are beginning to be affected in terms of their personal interactions. Partly to challenge this, it is now possible to activate the Google Conversation Mode, in relation to this one specific voice assistant. This mode keeps the microphone open for another eight seconds, which is intended to give sufficient time for a follow up question and also allows the user to thank the voice assistant (nominally a 'she') and to receive back a reply of “You’re welcome” or equivalent.
According to lead researcher Professor James Gaskin, the research has been triggered by concerns expressed by some in society about the way people communicate: "Worried parents and news outlets alike have fretted about how the personification of digital assistants affects our politeness, yet we have found little reason to worry about adults becoming ruder as a result of ordering around Siri or Alexa."
He adds that: "In other words, there is no need for adults to say "please" and "thank you" when using a digital assistant."
Going forwards, the researchers are confident that if artificial intelligence becomes more anthropomorphic in form (like the new Vector Robot with its expressive eyes and moving head), the the effects on human interactions be strengthened because human-machine interactions will be based on machines that are capable of expressing emotions.
The study has been presented to the Americas Conference on Information Systems.
More about voice assistant, Temper, human vs machine, Communications
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