Google Assistant Is A "Character", Has A "Backstory"

Google Assistant is made to supersede and supplant Google Now in every conceivable way, and even at this early stage, it seems like it's doing a great job. The early preview version of Google Assistant available in Allo can hold rudimentary conversations like a chat bot, and can also integrate with other apps and services, only in limited capacity for now, to fulfill what the user may ask of it. That capability will be expanding in the near future with the opening of Actions to third-party developers. The bot is also actively learning new languages, with English already available and a particular emphasis on learning Hindi, given Google's plans to use Assistant in the emerging market of India. Assistant will eventually be able to lock into other apps and services as the developers jump on board, giving users a theoretically infinite array of things to ask it to do, from grabbing an Uber to making dinner plans. These features are useful, but they are not quite as interesting as another flagship feature; the fact that Google Assistant is a "character".

Character is what makes life, well, life. It's the sum total of a person's experiences and values that gives them a unique persona that nobody else can boast an exact match to. It's a concept that's uniquely human. At least, it was. While the idea has been done to death in fiction, Google Assistant is the first machine learning-based AI to have a character and backstory in the real world. This may seem like a random quirk, but it could prove to be quite important in the long run - Google Assistant, given the use of machine learning and neural networks, could actively develop its personality through continued use, the same way humans constantly develop their personality through exposure to others, albeit in a much more limited capacity. The kicker is that pre-set values could help keep it from being too influenced and running amok in a manner similar to the AI that Microsoft created and unleashed upon the internet earlier this year.

Google Assistant is one of the first AI to boast such a feature, alongside the somewhat more commonplace feature set tied to adapting to conversation with humans. Bots these days can come dangerously close to being able to pass a Turing test, and this feature will help Google Assistant along with that benchmark, as well as making it easier for users to talk to it, ask it to do things, and even trust it. Two of Google Assistant's backstory and personality designers, Doodle head Ryan Germick and former Pixar employee Emma Coats describe the AI as having a "childhood", and teams working on Assistant are reportedly looking into ways to make it appear vulnerable and trustworthy to users.

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Daniel Fuller

Senior Staff Writer
Daniel has been writing for Android Headlines since 2015, and is one of the site's Senior Staff Writers. He's been living the Android life since 2010, and has been interested in technology of all sorts since childhood. His personal, educational and professional backgrounds in computer science, gaming, literature, and music leave him uniquely equipped to handle a wide range of news topics for the site. These include the likes of machine learning, voice assistants, AI technology development, and hot gaming news in the Android world. Contact him at [email protected]
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