This recent article explores the idea that the actual words used to express yourself (your desires, commands, etc.) to a robot will impact your overall experience with the robot. It can also impact the robot’s performance, output, and the results achieved from your interaction. To phrase it differently, if you have a bad experience with a robot, it is (at least partially) your own fault.
To improve your experience with robots, the article suggests to keep in mind that:
- direct commands spoken to a robot should not be overly polite, nor phrased like (optional) requests
- don’t expect a robot to understand your intentions from imprecise speech, because robots aren’t as good as humans at extrapolation (yet)
- be literal and precise when you speak to a robot, if you really want to get the robot to understand you and do what you want
- the addition of simple words like “please” & “can” can completely alter the question that you are asking of the robot or the statement that you are saying to it (i.e. certain words can change the robot’s perception/interpretation of what you are asking/telling it)
As robot designers, these are important lessons to remember when designing how our robots interact with humans. Our robots need to be designed to recognize/detect imprecise speech (high uncertainty or lack of clarity); our robots should ask questions (when necessary) for clarification; and the aforementioned interaction with humans should be modeled more closely upon how humans interact with each other (as opposed to a command-response model that contains discrete phrases that trigger robot action).
When you speak to the personal assistants or robots in your life (Alexa, google home, Siri, Cortana, Jibo, etc.) do you speak to them differently than you do to humans? If so, why do you think that you modulate your language, tone, voice, or whatever when speaking to robots/assistants/devices? Thinking back to your first interactions with these devices, did you modulate yourself from the very first interaction, or was it a progression over time? What prompted you to start speaking differently to your devices than you do to other humans? Do you change the actual words that you use when speaking to a device (as compared to the word choices you make when speaking with humans)? Is the change conscious or subconscious (automatic)?