Beginning of New Bond

Google Home

I was quite excited to try out Google Home, although none of my light switches at home is smart enough to pair up with it.

The commands I have used most are:

Weather today/tomorrow/next week
News
Play a podcast (only autoplays the latest episode)
Play XX radio station
Play a XX song by XX artist

Phrasing the commands simple and straightforward is the rule, otherwise what awaits me is just “Sorry I can’t help.” or “Sorry I don’t understand”.

It certainly has created a new vibe at home, but I also sometimes wonder whether it is actually necessary to have such a not-so-smart “home assistant” to be around.

Google, not surprisingly, is pretty proud of its product:

What we found is that people are not only learning how to use the devices, they’re weaving them into their lives and daily routines. And in some instances, they’re forging a new kind of bond with technology, one that’s often much more personal than in the past.

I was expecting the bond to be formed a bit more smoothly than what I’m experiencing. The media had given a lot of credibility to the AI technology and what it can bring to the future, despite its obvious current limitations. It feels that AI has slowly taken its shape in certain fields through audio and visual stimulation, or maybe a combination of both. However, since long ago, the discussions of AI tend to focus on how AI can saturate ordinary people’s life both physically and mentally  — ie: occupations to be replaced by AI roborts by 20XX years; AI computer beats chess master; people become too obsessed with AI and get confused with boundaries between AI and reality (as seen in the movie Her, and Black Mirror S3E1).

The “new bond” pushed by Google signifies that they have kickstarted the process to transit a machine from one that talks, responds, and actions, to one that understands, interacts, and generates more intimate user experience.

Recently Facebook has decided to shift its Newsfeed algorithm from focusing on relevant content to enabling more “meaningful social interactions.”Another example that big companies are heavily investing in new ways of getting people to “bond” with technology, on a level that facilitates the day-to-day social interactions between people in an online environment.

As AI becoming part of the modern living, it will certainly introduce new user habits, access points, behaviours, which then lead to more diverse ways to perceive ourselves and others. However it’d be interesting to see if the “new bond” led by AI will live up to the high expectation, both in terms of its speed of development and the quality of the connection that’s being generated.

Following the trace of love

It is a bit hard to define what type of work “Love at Fifth Site” is — a digital installation, a creative project, or simply a film (even though there is no record of this on IMDb). The installation is made of 5 film clips, and you get to “watch” them by standing in front of 5 different screens. However, instead of listening to the characters speaking to you, you actually follow the characters’ dialogues by pointing your own phone at the screen at each of the site, with the help of an APP.  At the same time you also get to experience the scenes by interacting with the props supplied onsite, which appeared to set in the same way as the ones in the film.

image-Fringe

At first I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I encountered that at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, but it turned out to be a very fun and enjoyable experience to follow the development of a love story. The lack of music is the only small disappointment to this experience, as the audio and sound element would make the whole story more engaging together with the visual and interactive elements.

It is fascinating to see how this creative use of digital device gives people a new way of “being in control”, which has been seen in many other creative artworks such as this one. It certainly allows the audience to explore the visual space more actively compared to the traditional cinematic experience. However there has already been contemplation on a  world where smart phone penetrates all parts of everyday life and even dominates people’s thinking and perception. An extreme but not unrealistic example has been demonstrated in Black Mirror-Episode “Nosedive”, where people constantly rate each other with their phones after every single encounter, and the whole social trust system is built upon that as a result.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to have the choice available in the meanwhile, so that we can all be easily surprised and inspired with that little device in the pocket.

Black Mirror.jpg
Black Mirror-Episode “Nosedive”