Tag Archives: siri

Hey Siri, are you real?

Hey Siri, are you real?

Following on from my recent blog post about installing voice assistants on campus, I recently read an article, Giving human touch to Alexa or Siri can backfire on how trying to make voice assistants appear to be human or have human touches may not give you the results you were looking for.

A team has found that giving a human touch to chatbots like Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa may actually disappoint users.

Just giving a chatbot human name or adding human-like features to its avatar might not be enough to win over a user if the device fails to maintain a conversational back-and-forth with that person…

This reminded me of a conversation I had at an Intelligent Campus workshop where the idea of trying to make chatbots appear human was probably not a good idea, and maybe they should intentionally make their chatbot non-human.

There are potential challenges as Microsoft found out with their paper clip assistant, but was that because it was a paper clip or because it was annoying?


In many ways Clippy was the ancestor of Siri, Cortana and other modern day assistants.

A non-human chatbot could also avoid some of the gender issues that occur when deciding if your chatbot is female or male.

This Guardian article from March discusses this contentious issue, of gender for voice assistants.

Providing assistance has long been considered a woman’s role, whether virtual or physical, fictional or real. The robots that men voice, meanwhile, tend to be in positions of power – often dangerously so. Think Hal 9000, or the Terminator: when a robot needs to be scary, it sounds like a man.

Patriarchy tells us that women serve, while men order, and technology firms seem content to play into stereotypes, rather than risk the potentially jarring results of challenging them.

The article talks about EqualAI

EqualAI, an initiative dedicated to correcting gender bias in AI, has backed the creation of Q, what it says is the first genderless voice.

So if you do have a non-human chatbot, if you want to extend it to be a voice assistant, at least soon you will be able to have a genderless voice behind it.

So what (rather than who) should be your chatbot? Well it could be an anthropomorphic animal or maybe something else that is special to your university or college.

So what would your chatbot be?

Hey Siri, how am I doing on my course?

Of course if you ask Siri today, her reply is, well it depends…


Another response to the same question…


As for tomorrow…. well could it be different?

However for other things intelligent assistants such as Siri, Cortana and Google Now can be a really useful mechanism for finding things out, things you need to do and in many instances fun stuff too.

I have been wondering if we could utilise these technologies and apply it to learning.

We know that most (if not all) people can usually tell when using a chat function on a website when they are talking to a chat bot and when they are talking to a real person.

Could we just not even try and think that the intelligent agent is real and actually play up to the fact it is artificial. Give it a name and even create a personality for it?

This way we could avoid some of those ethical issues about a piece of software trying to pretend to be human. The students know it is not real and it is advertised accordingly.

But could such a tool be an useful thing for students to have access to? One that could learn from its experiences and fine tune it’s responses and interventions?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be voice controlled, users could use text entries.

So what kind of questions could learners ask?

What is the best book for this module?

Where is a quiet place to study on campus?

What other questions could we expect learners to be asking?

Emerged Technologies


Four years is a long time in technology, but how much has happened since 2011?

Back in November 2011 I was asked by the AoC to present at a conference with Donald Taylor on emerging technologies and how FE Colleges should be preparing for them.

My slides and Donald’s are in this slidedeck.

My notes from that presentation are here, but how much has changed since then and had education really embraced and started to embed these emerging technologies.

Continue reading Emerged Technologies