Meet the woman behind Google Assistant
SEE ALSO :Top Treasury man yet to take key postUpon her release in May 2016, Ms Assistant has been swiftly and accurately fulfilling endless queries across the globe, and in multiple languages too. Arguably the smartest voice-activated assistant we’ve ever seen, the seemingly random facts that make up her artificial backstory were all meticulously given life by Google’s lead conversation and persona designer James Giangola, to give the technological assistant a relatable personality. In an interview with The Atlantic, Giangola described how the Assistant has a hobby for kayaking. When auditioning for the right voice, it was noted that one of Giangola’s skeptical colleagues questioned the wisdom behind Assistant’s water sporting endeavours, “How does one sound like they’re into kayaking?” Giandola replied commenting on a candidate who had just auditioned and said, "Do you think she sounded energetic, like she’s up for kayaking?" His colleague pointed out that she didn’t, to which Giangola replied, "Okay, there you go".
SEE ALSO :Google turns 20 , what’s next?It was important for companies such as Google (or even Apple with Siri and Amazon with Alexa) to achieve a balance between the robotic and the real. Although voiced by a real human being, the fine line between natural-sounding speech and synthetic speech is very important. An automated assistant should remain true to its cybernetic nature but sound friendly enough to allow its users to confide in it and trust its words all without coming across as creepy. Aiding Google with Assistant’s personality was was Emma Coats who was hired from Pixar. Her previous work as a storyboard artist for the movies Brave, Monsters University and Inside Out allowed for her to shed some expertise on the matter. The Atlantic reports that Coats was at a conference for Google and commented on Assistant saying, “it should be able to speak like a person, but it should never pretend to be one.”
SEE ALSO :Kenya tech firms in top 50 ‘Genius’ listEmma Coats, who worked on Google's Assistant was a storyboard artist on the Disney movie Inside Out. Drawing comparisons to the movie Finding Nemo, she said, “the fish are just as emotionally real as human beings, but they go to fish school and they challenge each other to go up and touch a boat.” Similarly, an artificially intelligent entity should mirror the workings of the software that programmed it in the first place. Although Google Assistant can relay speech in a humanly way, Coats argues that it shouldn’t actually possess a human identity, nor should it be able to feel the way that we feel and it seems that Google may have recognised this. For example, upon asking Assistant a question such as “What’s your favourite ice-cream flavour?”, as opposed to answering the question directly, it dances around ambiguity instead of unique specificity, responding with something like “You can’t go wrong with Neapolitan. There’s something in it for everyone.”