This short story presents a not-too-distant future in which people have complicated relationships with other people, with their own self-concept and with ‘virtual identities.’ In short, very little about this world feels unlike our own. The aspect of this future scenario which felt most interesting was how the main character and her (AI-native) children had a very different conception of the virtual assistant, Augusta. I was reminded of a talk from Stefania Druga (Media Lab) about her research into ‘Growing Up with AI’.
The podcast Sandra introduces a world in which the eponymous ‘virtual assistant’ is not in fact virtual, but composed of many human assistants speaking through a single anonymizing electronic voice. In this world, people hired to control this virtual assistant take an aptitude test to determine their specific sub-specialty (birds, relationships, etc.). Only requests relating to those subjects will be routed to them and their responses are relayed to the users of ‘Sandra’ through a single modulated voice.
For my assignment this week, I made a voice controlled map! This week, I tried both two voice-controlled games – Chicken Scream and YASUHATI – on my Android phone. Both games are simple side scrollers with voice-activated character movements. The basic controls for both games are identical: - both games are volume-controlled, without regard for pitch or semantics (more on this later) - a low-volume input causes the character to walk forward - a medium-volume input causes the character to jump - a high-volume input causes the character to jump higher I found both games extremely difficult to control.