Tech Giants Promise a Future with AI Assistants: But do We Really Want Them?

NNicholas September 23, 2023 3:19 PM

Big tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are heavily investing into AI assistants, promising a more efficient and easier life. But the public's lukewarm response to past AI assistants raises questions about their actual need and potential acceptance.

Tech giants' ambitious AI assistant plans

Google, Amazon, and Microsoft made significant announcements this week, revealing plans to further infiltrate their apps and services with AI assistant technologies. Google is extending the capabilities of its AI, Bard, to various apps including Gmail and Docs. Amazon has set its sights on providing 'near-human-like conversations' with Alexa, while Microsoft envisions embedding its AI assistant, Copilot, across its product range. These tech giants are staking a claim in the future of AI - a future where AI bot assistants will be seamlessly integrated into our everyday tools and services.

Public's mixed feelings towards AI assistants

The road to full acceptance of AI assistant technologies by the public has been rocky, to say the least. Earlier iterations such as Clippy, Microsoft's Office assistant, were met with distaste and indifference. More recent AI assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana also haven't seen the kind of widespread adoption that was initially projected. This raises questions about whether these new, more advanced AI assistants will be embraced or met with the same lukewarm reception of their predecessors.

Perils of AI assistant errors

The skepticism surrounding AI assistants is not unfounded. The chatbots of the past have had their fair share of high-profile blunders, which diminishes the trust in their capabilities. Errors made by these bots can have serious real-world consequences. For example, a simple misinterpretation of a song title request by Alexa can be annoying, however, a bot insisting on inserting incorrect information into an important work document can have severe consequences. It's these high stakes mistakes that make the public wary of fully trusting and integrating AI assistants into their lives.

Despite the public skepticism, Microsoft is pushing hard on its vision of an AI-fueled personal assistant. The company is heavily investing in generative AI development and has forged a $13 billion partnership with OpenAI, a leading generative AI company. This push from Microsoft is seen as a major influence on Google’s own advancement in the field, with the rollout of its internet search 'experiment', Bard. Whether this investment will pay off and sway public acceptance of AI assistants is yet to be seen.

Despite the hype and initial excitement surrounding AI chatbots, the practical use of these tools has been underwhelming. The use of AI chatbot internet search tools like Microsoft's Bing and Google's Bard has not taken off as expected. The publicly available data suggests that the overall interest in consumer-facing generative AI has dwindled since it first burst onto the scene in late 2022 and early 2023. The fluctuation in the usage of these tools seems to be largely driven by students who use them for homework and essay writing, rather than for obtaining information.

Unrealized potential of generative AI

Despite the lukewarm reception of AI chatbot tools, tech giants like Google and Microsoft continue to push the potential benefits of these technologies. Their vision is to integrate AI across all services, which in theory could provide users with a personalized, efficient assistant that enhances both their work and personal lives. However, there are yet many hurdles to overcome, with many AI tools still in their 'experimental' phase and the complete integration of assistants like Copilot not yet realized.

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