I use my “AI” personal assistants intermittently, mostly because they aren’t very good assistants; yet. For these things to actually get useful, they need to be able to do more than build lists, order things, send reminders, and provide wayfinding.
Use Case: Adding a stop to my wayfinding
- Existing Functionality: I ask: “Dunkin Donuts along my route”. I’m told “Finding Dunkin Donuts along your route along your route.” and presented with a list of x number of locations that I have to scroll through, determine which is the best option, and add to the wayfinding while I’m driving.
- Better Functionality: I ask “Dunkin Donuts along my route.” and the assistant chooses from the options available and automatically adds the one with least impact on my travel time to the wayfinding.
- Best Functionality: I say “Order my usual from the nearest Dunkin Donuts on my route” and the assistant: finds that location, places an on-the-go order using information it already has, and schedules the pick-up based on travel time to that location.
Use Case: Reminders
- Existing Functionality: I say: “Remind me to get up at 1am on Sunday for the Orionid meteor shower”. I get a notification at 1am on Sunday. I sleep through it.
- Better Functionality: I say: “Remind me to get up at 1am on Sunday for the Orionid meteor shower”. An alarm is set instead of a push notification, because the assistant knows I’m usually asleep at this time.
- Best Functionality: I say: “Find me the best place and time to watch the Orionid meteor shower on Sunday.” The assistant knows my location, checks the Dark Sky database for nearby locations with lower light pollution, calculates travel time to that location for best viewing, and sets an alarm to wake me up so I can get there on time.
Other stuff that would be cool:
- “Pay my gas, electric, internet, and phone bills on Friday.” This finds the bills, and schedules payment with my bank.
- “Send $50 worth of flowers to my mom the Saturday before every Mother’s Day” Bonus points if it knows what kind of flowers to send.
- “Add ‘The History of Philosophy’ podcast to my morning drive Spotify playlist”
- “Schedule 3 days of weight training and 3 days of cardio, and adapt the schedule based on missed workouts.” This isn’t just putting something on the calendar, but is actively providing the workout details as well.
- “I want Italian for dinner twice this week.” This would find a recipe or two based on how much time it knows I have to prepare dinner, and automatically add the ingredients to my list. Bonus points if it can analyze past meal plans & predict what ingredients I already have on hand.
These AI assistants are way less capable than my child of understanding & interpreting conversational speech and using context & initiative to provide a quality return. If you don’t ask the question using the exact phrasing they know, you’re wasting their time. Assistants waste my time if I have to learn their language in order to get half-functional results from them.
They may get smart one day, but the walled-garden paradigm is going to make it a pain in the ass. My AI of choice should work with all of my other applications of choice, but I have a feeling it will be less by choice & more by necessity in the long run. I can’t see Google’s AI integrating with Apple to download something in iTunes. Or Alexa allowing you to order something from an Amazon competitor.