No minced words here.
One Falls, Another Rises
As language-modeling AIs continue their rise to dominance, a new-old victim to the tech might be emerging: voice assistants.
According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, that is. As the scope and impact of Amazon's recent layoffs — which reportedly hit Amazon's Alexa division quite seriously — come further into focus, The Financial Times has revealed that in an interview last month, Nadella went absolutely off on the voice assistants of the 2010s, basically just saying that, well, they're not too bright.
"They were all dumb as a rock," Nadella reportedly told the FT last month, speaking to the digital assistants — Microsoft's own, Cortana, included — that are currently available on the market.
"Whether it's Cortana or Alexa or Google Assistant or Siri," he added, "all these just don't work."
In other words: while the hype was clearly real, considering that Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Apple all had their version of a digital assistant — Amazon, notably, had sold 100 million Alexa units by November 2019 — the models just didn't live up to their original hype.
I'm Not Dead Yet
Though the FT didn't note whether Nadella, who in 2016 had declared that "bots are the new apps" while demoing Cortana, was overtly comparing digital assistants to Microsoft's newer, OpenAI-powered Bing Search, it certainly seems that way.
And to Nadella's credit, in a lot of ways Bing Search is already more advanced than the Siris and Alexas of yesteryear. If you ask Siri, for example, to build a workout plan for you from scratch, it can't — it can only find a pre-made program online via conventional search. Bing Search and its OpenAI-built brother ChatGPT, on the other hand, could both construct some kind of workout plan — or grocery list, or travel itinerary, and so on — for you by remixing relevant content that it can locate in its training material.
Elsewhere, currently-integrated digital assistants are difficult to monetize post-purchase, and the data-mining of it all aside, they don't exactly have the sci-fi feel that their architects imagined.
That said, though, according to the FT report, it looks like Microsoft competitors have their eyes on using generative AI tools to level up their existing digital assistant models.
"Fundamentally, [generative AI] will enable that breadth and flexibility and complexity that has not existed with the previous generation of voice assistants," Siri co-creator Adam Cheyer told the FT. "I think there will be a renaissance."
Heard that, folks? They're not dead yet!
READ MORE: Amazon's big dreams for Alexa fall short [The Financial Times]
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