Alexa alone at home

by Leonie Bachmaier

What does my Alexa do when she’s alone?

While an apartment owner near Hamburg was not at home, his virtual assistant “Alexa” caused a lot of trouble. She threw a party without the knowledge or permission of her owner and turned the music so loud that the neighbours even had to call the police. Finally, the security guards had to break open the door to blow up the small private party. Virtual assistants are considered to make our lives easier and are becoming increasingly popular.

A rapidly growing market!

In the last two years alone, researchers, start-ups and major brands have developed more than 40,000 of these intelligent programs. According to the online portal for statistics “Statista”, the number of users will rise to around 1.4 billion this year.

What exactly is a virtual assistant?

These are computer programs that operate on a text and/or voice basis. By recognizing our language and being able to process instructions, they should make our lives easier.

What’s in the chatbots?

The term chatbot is an English neologism derived from chat, such as chattering and robots. Babbling is in their technical nature:

The computer-generated characters simulate a conversation to get information from the user and to give the user the desired information. They are programmed to process the natural language and control the conversation depending on the content and context of the dialogue.

Similar to humans

Some of these assistants are even programmed to look human and alive. Today, the computer voice often has an animated face. Even if this may seem like a new technology, the idea for it came early.

Alexa’s grandmother ELIZA

Digital interactions at the linguistic level are not a new trend. In fact, research in this field has been going on for about 70 years.

The first computer program for linguistic communication between humans and computers, “ELIZA”, was presented by Professor Joseph Weizenbaum in Massachusetts as early as 1966 and is today considered the first prototype of the chatbot. At that time, not many supporters believed in this idea and so in the following years Weizenbaum lacked the money to push the development forward.

Door to door with A.L.I.C.E.

Many years later – not until 1995 – the next milestone was launched on the market. The program “A.L.I.C.E”, or “Artificial Lingustic Internet Computer Entity” is considered the next development on the way to the chatbot as we know it today.

Siri eventually makes it into the pockets and ears of many people

Then in 2011 Apple introduced its software, whose voice everyone knows: -The program goes by the name of “Siri” and has become known worldwide as a real blockbuster.

A science fiction fan follows

Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO, is a big “Startrek” fan. This series of films inspired him to develop Alexa in 2014, who now inhabits numerous living rooms – and already provides for curious stories.

The country needs new men?

All successful virtual assistants have been developed as female characters… Does the virtual world possibly reflect the fact that men are never actually assistants?

To this day, and certainly in the future, research in the field of virtual assistants continues to be carried out eagerly. Maybe there is a virtual “Ken” after all?

Until then: “happy conversation”

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