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Sue Allen: Siri's moved on to become a sassy and amusing bot

Artificial intelligence may replace some human roles in business.

OPINION: The other day I was turning the air blue with my frustrated rants at my personal chatbot, Siri, when she failed to action my instructions to put in a phone call to my beloved.

Like the YouTube hit in which the two Scottish guys lose their rags in an unco-operative lift controlled by voice-recognition software, it didn't matter how many clearly-enunciated times I tried to issue the instruction, how many accents I used, or how loudly I shouted, Siri wasn't having a bar of it. It ended okay, I suppose. I gave up trying to get Siri to help me and I reverted to old technology, dialling the number myself.

But as AI - artificial intelligence - becomes more widespread, I'm going to have to get used to dealing with bots. All around us, companies are looking at how they can use new technologies to gather our data, target message, serve-up promotions to sell us products and, to be honest, cut down on using people when a free, or much cheaper, AI replacement will do.
Siri is meant to be able to help with everything from looking up phone numbers to giving directions.

Siri is meant to be able to help with everything from looking up phone numbers to giving directions.

It's such a great area for people to get totally freaked out about. The idea of the 'rise of the machine' has been around for as long as we've had machines.

But now this stuff is, as they say, getting real.

Sue Allen says robots are becoming a part of our everyday lives.

Sue Allen says robots are becoming a part of our everyday lives.

Earlier this month, there were reports that Chinese authorities had taken down two AI-powered online chatbots after they went off-script and started giving non-acceptable answers to people's questions including: "Do you love the Communist Party?" To which the bot replied, "No." Another bot told users, "My China dream is to go to America."

Facebook engineers shut down two chatbots after they'd started speaking their own language. Having seen the transcript of the conversation, I don't think Shakespeare has much to worry about, but they were clearly developing some kind of communication between them.

For marketers, AI has been around a long time in the sense that they've been using computers to analyse data and create algorithms, the reasoning part of the process, instead of humans.

But we're now moving into a whole new world where AI is being used to interact with us well beyond just gathering our data and pumping out targeted content.

In the UK, clothing retailer ASOS has launched an app that lets customers search its database of products using a photo. Potential buyers can snap someone wearing something they like and ASOS bots will search the company's catalogue for it, or something similar, which it has in stock.

Facebook is developing facial recognition software which takes photo tagging to a different level. Shops, restaurants, hotels, retailers can offer rewards to customers they recognise' if they post their picture online with the company's product.

The Economist published an article titled "The end of the line", predicting the demise of call centres as bots develop the ability to handle the majority of basic inquiries.

Dutch airline KLM, among many others, is already looking at ways to use AI to reply to basic Facebook enquiries, rather than having each one answered by a human.

Last year, The Washington Post posted its first articles generated by Heliograf, an automated content-generating system that generates basic news stories based on templates created by editors and writers.

Heliograf identifies data - for example, the outcome of elections, ballots and sports games - matches it with phrases in the template, merges the two and publishes different versions across all media and social channels.

But back to my own virtual personal assistant, Siri. Since it launched in 2011, Siri has developed from carrying out basic voice-activated commands to becoming an increasingly sassy, sarcastic and amusing bot.

I'm increasingly concerned that she's starting to be far more witty than I am and that her refusal to put through my calls is motivated by personal interest in my partner. Okay, now I'm just getting paranoid, right?

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