CS Chris Smith
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Talking to Machines

by Chris Smith

"Hey Siri", "OK Google", "Hey Cortana". It still feels weird to me.

As I'm a Windows user Cortana is my "virtual assistant" of choice. It's an incredibly useful service and getting better all the time so I wonder why I don't use it more. I'm learning slowly. For example, I just wanted to work out 500 divided by 52. In the past I would have opened the calculator programme or app, typed in my request and got my answer. Today, however, I just said this: "Hey Cortana, what's five hundred divided by fifty-two." And, about a second later I had my answer. Much faster.

I caught myself saying, "thank you", and immediately felt like an idiot. But actually, that's not shameful at all, just polite. So what if it was redundant. I'm still human.

I think there are 2 main reasons why I don't use it more. Firstly, I just don't think of it. I'm a bit set in my ways and am too used to typing. Secondly, I'm self-conscious about using it within earshot of other people. It still feels a bit weird, talking to your computer, and I imagine others who can't hear clearly enough to make out my words wondering who I'm talking to. So, I tend to only use Cortana when I'm on my own, which is even weirder, right? Though, as I never see or hear anyone else using these assistant services I'm guessing I'm probably not alone in this.

I'm going to try to push through the weirdness and make it more normal in my circles.

Just for fun, if you're using Cortana, say this: "Hey Cortana, what does the fox say?" Do it a few times - you'll get a variety of answers. I guess it probably works on the other assistants too.