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中国日报网 2018-11-02 16:53


Way back in 1968, the Stanley Kubrick film “2001: A Space Odyssey” featured a main character that was a forerunner, in a sense, of today's digital assistants.

The HAL 9000, a supercomputer endowed with artificial intelligence, ran a space ship and interacted with astronauts using a soft, calm voice and an unblinking red lens for an eye. HAL -- short for heuristically programmed algorithmic computer – was the creation of novelist Arthur C. Clarke.

Today's digital assistants, of course, can be customized with a variety of voices and taught to turn things on or off in the home or play a favorite song.

According to a report on the website DigitalMarket.Asia, China’s consumers are leading the way in using voice assistants

Citing the study Speak Easy, jointly created by the J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group and Mindshare Futures, the report said the use of voice controls by Chinese for most activities was higher than the global average, “reflecting the strong appetite for voice technology in China”.
该报告援引汤普森创新集团和Mindshare Futures联合进行的研究“Speak Easy”称,在大多数活动中,中国人使用语音控制的次数高于全球平均水平,“这反映出中国对语音技术的强大热情”。

It said that finding out product information and searching online had the highest usage, “which is driven by the busy and fast-paced lifestyles of Chinese consumers.”

But considering that my high-tech life doesn’t go much beyond a smart phone and an e-reader, I was amazed at a recent New York Times report describing what voice products from companies like Amazon and Google can do.

You can have these devices read you the day’s top news. You can add to your shopping list, and by downloading an app, it will remind you of what you need when you’re close to the store.

More and more people have multiple devices, and it’s no wonder: You can use them like a linked intercom to call the kids to supper.

Feel like relaxing? They can walk you through a guided meditation. If you want to hear an uplifting story, say “tell me something good”. If you want to have a natural conversation, set the device so that you don’t have to start every sentence with your digital assistant’s name.

OK, admittedly, all this sounds pretty cool. The Speak Easy report even found that 43 percent of smartphone users “think voice technology will free us up from our dependency on the mobile to allow us to interact more with the world around us”.
是的,无可否认,所有这些听起来都棒极了。Speak Easy报告甚至发现,43%的智能手机用户“认为语音技术将使我们摆脱对手机的依赖,让我们有更多机会与周围的世界进行互动”。

That is, people won’t have their noses glued to their phones as much, at least theoretically.

But I submit that there is another side to all this. For one, there is the risk of falling in love with a disembodied voice.

“Almost half (43 percent) of regular voice technology users globally say that they love their voice assistant so much that they wish it were a real person,” DigitalMarket.Asia reported, citing the study. “This is particularly true in the markets enthusiastically embracing voice, such as China (65 percent) and Thailand (61 percent).”
亚洲数字市场网援引Speak Easy报告称:“全球近一半(43%)经常使用语音助手的用户表示,他们非常喜欢语音助手,甚至希望它是一个真人。在语音助手大受欢迎的市场,比如中国(65%)和泰国(61%),这种情况尤其明显。”

Another trend from the study’s summary is that consumers express the desire to give up control to their intangible companion. “Voice assistants will start to take on a more prominent role, managing consumers’ lives proactively, making decisions independently, and (they) will essentially evolve into ‘digital butlers’.”

That reminds me of how things went with the HAL.

In the film, when astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole whisper to each other that they may disconnect HAL because it (or is it “he”?) appears to be malfunctioning, HAL reads their lips and decides to disconnect them.

At one point, HAL has locked Bowman in a pod and is threatening to cut off his air supply. Bowman demands he open the door.

That’s when HAL, in his calm, polite voice, produces one of the creepiest expressions ever heard in a science fiction film: “I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.”


编审:董静 丹妮
来源:CHINA DAILY 微信公众号:

About the author & broadcaster

Matt Prichard is a copy editor and writer who works on the front page team of China Daily. He has lived in China for more than four years, in Shanghai and Beijing. Before that, he had a 30-year career as a reporter and editor in the United States and Latin America. He has an ABJ from the University of Georgia and did postgraduate work at the Universidad Nacional del Sur in Argentina. He speaks Spanish fluently and is still learning Mandarin.
Contact the writer at mattprichard@chinadaily.com.cn





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