“When users ask Siri, Apple’s digital assistant, what she likes to drink, she is quick with an answer,” Julia Love and Yasmeen Abutaleb report for Reuters. “‘I have a thirst for knowledge,’ she responds. Her counterpart at Microsoft, Cortana, opts for a very, very dry martini. But M, the digital assistant Facebook is testing, deflects the question. ‘I don’t have an opinion about that. What’s your favorite drink?’
“As the tech giants race to build ever better artificial intelligence platforms, they are obsessing over the nuances of their digital assistants’ personalities,” Love and Abutaleb report. “But companies are split on the best way to forge deep connections with users. Siri and Cortana are waging charm offensives, both quick to crack a joke or tell a story. Their elaborate personas are meant to keep users coming back. Facebook has built M with no gender, personality or voice. The design bears some resemblance to Google’s similarly impersonal assistant.
“For tech companies, the stakes are high, said Matt McIlwain, managing director of Madrona Venture Group, since digital assistants can guide users to their own products and those of their advertisers and partners – and away from those of competitors. Google’s digital assistant, for example, uses the company’s search engine to fulfill user requests for information rather than Yahoo or Microsoft’s Bing,” Love and Abutaleb report. “The Siri team concluded that personality was indispensable, said Gary Morgenthaler, an investor in Siri, the startup that created the eponymous assistant and was later acquired by Apple. ‘If you are emulating a human being,’ he said, ‘then you are halfway into a human type of interaction.'”
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MacDailyNews Take: We prefer Siri, naturally, precisely because she has a personality. Any tradeoff for the certainty that someone somewhere will be “offended” about something Siri says jokingly is well worth having some humor as opposed to dealing with an impersonal automaton like Google’s privacy-invading and intrusive abomination Google Now.