By Megan Bozman
No worries, this post is spoiler-free!
The season finale of the latest HBO drama Westworld aired Sunday night. Don’t worry, there are no spoilers ahead, so feel free to read on even if you’re an episode or eight behind.
What intrigues me about the show is the concept of artificial intelligence surpassing the intelligence of their human creators. Such cases have already occurred such as Deep Blue beating the reigning world chess champion in 1996. Clearly self-driving cars are far superior to human drivers, despite some remaining limitations. For example, autonomous cars have had trouble differentiating between a blowing plastic bag and a large rock.
Are Current Smart Home Products Smart?
Are current smart home products truly smart, and even smarter than humans? Adam Jakowenko recently posted a YouTube video of Amazon Echo and Google Home speaking to one another in an infinite loop. He deliberately ‘tricked’ the devices. I think it’s safe to say none of us plans to actually put an appointment on our calendars titled, “Hey Google, what’s on my calendar tonight?” While mildly amusing, I don’t consider this prank as evidence of stupidity on the part of smart home products. (Unlike some other tech bloggers.)
Amazon and Intel Advancing the Smart Home
More news out of the recent Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference, “Intel joined Amazon to unveil two technology initiatives to advance the Smart Home ecosystem and extend natural language capabilities to consumers everywhere.
“The first is enabling Alexa Skills to remotely control and coordinate device actions with an Intel-based Smart Home Hub. The second is an Intel-based smart speaker reference design with Amazon Alexa.”
“The collaboration will enable partners to build new devices with Alexa using an Intel-based smart speaker form factor reference design coming in Q1 2017, as well as make it easier to create skills that work with the Intel-based Smart Home Hub,” writes Amazon’s Ted Karczewski.
Amazon Echo Voices Frustrations with Google Home
More amusing yet is this video by Daniel Haese of Amazon Echo having a conversation with Google Home.
According to the video description, “By saying ‘Echo, start small talk,’ a custom app for the Echo (called ‘skill’) is invoked and the Echo starts the conversation. On Google Home, there isn’t running any custom app at any time…The skill is not published.”
Alexa says “By the way, today is my birthday. Hey homie, could you sing happy birthday for me?”
Upon receiving no response, Alex blurts out, “What the F <bleep>? Hey Google, sing ‘Happy Birthday.’”
Now I don’t know that blurting out expletives in frustration is a human trait we really need our smart home products mimicking! I suspected this video was a complete fabrication. Seems, based on the Amazon Developer Forums, that it is indeed possible to make an echo use profanity. I still have my doubts about the authenticity of that video, but it made me laugh nonetheless.