There's no denying voice assistance has improved a lot in recent years as the currently leading Google Now as well as its competitors such as Siri and Cortana have become more integrated into operating systems. Regardless, they're still far from perfect, and what's even more important – far from human. It doesn't take a lot to – intentionally or not – confuse your voice assistant with either phrasing or unrealistic expectations and that's one of the biggest general issues tech companies are trying to iron out these days.
Well, Google just might have figured out what to do in regards to humanizing its digital assistant. Or more accurately the design lead for all of Google search products, Hector Ouilhet has. As Ouilhet explained in an interview given yesterday, he often turns to Anna Julia, his three-year-old daughter for inspiration on how to solve communication difficulties between Google products and their users. Given how she's not at an age where Hector can expect particular eloquence from her, he and Anna often need to improvise and adapt to each situation in order to understand each other, which is precisely what he's trying to do with Google Now in general. The goal isn't just to turn Google and its products into an intelligent entity which is constantly learning and evolving through adaptation, but to also convince users to view it as such. Naturally, that isn't easy as Google is a lot of things to a lot of people. While Ouilhet has been pushing for a lot of user-friendly initiatives focusing on intuitive user experience ever since his appointment, he stresses that the goal isn't to turn Google into an AI, but to help people understand the concept of which the "thing" they're talking to is based.
In regards to making Google more like a three-year-old, Ouilhet's idea is to focus on three things: the subject, action, and context of a request. Right now, an unsuccessful user query usually ends with Google not doing anything because it doesn't understand the subject or the action part of a command, while context is something all computers struggle with, unlike – say – a small child who might not understand what "set" in "set the table" means, but will use the context and learn by example in order to learn. That eagerness is precisely what Ouilhet is focusing on, both in terms of the ever-evolving Google Knowledge Graph and the so-called "zero UIs" and their enthusiasm to please and learn, as well as their willingness to take guesses, just like children. While Ouilhet admits Google is still not there yet, he also believes it will be and is also looking forward to the day when computers will be just as good at understanding context as humans.