MICROSOFT AND Amazon have made an agreement which will see the two company’s virtual assistants, Cortana and Alexa (respectively) be able to summon each other.
Yes. Not content with having to deal with Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant and heaven knows what else, you’re now going to have to get used to doing certain functions by asking “Alexa, summon Cortana”.
We’re still completely at a loss as to who this actually helps. Think about it in practice. The conversation goes
“Alexa, book me two tickets to see Smurfs: The Lost Village tonight”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand”
“Alexa, summon Cortana”
“Hello, Cortana here, filling in for Alexa”
“Hey Cortana, can you book me two tickets… ” and yadda yadda so forth.
Here’s the thing. You can see where both Bezos and Nadella are coming from on this.
Nadella: “Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us. Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”
Bezos: “The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience. It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”
Basically, it comes down to the fact that there are two massive egos at work. Bezos is winning at AI with Alexa. Nadella has access to millions more potential Alexa access points. They have more to win than to lose.
Problem is that by mushing the two separate systems together like some sort of distended evil twin to the other, both companies are letting the ego get in the way of the user experience. Neither wants their assistant to back off, and the compliment each other. But can we really be bothered to decide what AI to ask what?
It has all the elegance of Kim Dotcom doing the lambada with Anne Widdecombe. µ
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