Friday, January 22, 2016

Self-aware digital assistants

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
                                                                                      - Lao Tzu

Does anyone else find it annoying that the digital assistants that are built into modern consumer technology (like Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana) can answer questions about the world, but when you start to experience problems with your device they are the least helpful "person" in the world?

I recently upgraded to Windows 10 at home and I think the first 3 times I used Cortana, I tried to ask her questions about my installation.  Here are the type of questions I expect a smart digital assistant to be able to answer:

1. Is everything OK?  (did the installation go smoothly?  any errors/warnings I should know about?)
2. Why is my computer/phone going so slow?  (what is the current bottleneck?  CPU?  Memory?  What is using all the resources?)
3. Why am I out of disk space?  (what is the largest set of folders and files in my system?)
4. Why aren't my speakers working?  (scan device drivers, tell me what speakers are/aren't connected/make suggestions)

Questions like this might not be sexy, but I think it will feel natural to ask your phone/computer about itself.  Maybe digital assistants like Siri and Cortana should spend some time learning about themselves before they turn outward and help their users...
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