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Meet Singaporean behind the Google Assistant personality and jokes


Singapore: For Google Wu Wai Kaung, creating emotional contact between people and their robot assistant is not just a concept or a premise for a chapter of the science fiction science fiction series Black Mirror.

This is something that is faced with as daily lead to Asia-Pacific for Google Personality Assistant.

Even if there was no template or guide to relate to in trying to achieve this "vague" and "dull" task, it is also a little challenging, he told the CNA at the end of the last media briefing.

But he told that when the digital assistant was launched in 2016, there were three comprehensive principles that developers need to adhere to: he is smart, gets smarter; He speaks humanly, but does not pretend to be one; And that's helpful, but not in the way.

READ: How did Google's digital assistant help Singlish?

The tricky part is how to apply these abstract principles to real, real applications.

Take for example a user who asks Google Assistant about Neapolitan ice cream, he suggested.

A response such as "I love Neapolitan ice cream" will not work when the second principle applies, as it will testify that the digital assistant tried the ice cream – which is certainly impossible, he assumed, and the alternative is a workaround. Suggestion: "You can not go wrong with Neapolitan."

Uses at first, and it's not funny

Before Google, the 41-year-old Singapore led Apple's iTunes business for Southeast Asia. He also has a decade of experience under his belt working in the cable and television business for companies like Sony Pictures and Discovery Network.

When asked how his past experiences helped him on Google, Wu said: "At the risk of sounding a cliche, it's empathy for the user and getting the first people."

For example, TV programming required him to understand his audience, the content he liked and when they were expected to watch these shows, he was a part.

He and the "pretty small" team that oversee Google Assistant will bring the same first user approach to content design for the platform.

This means hitting the streets to canvass Australians for their best memories about Australian football – something that Google's co-CEO they did last year.The goal was to find out what issue impinges an emotional chord for people, he said.

They also use joking as a tool to bridge the gap between humans and machines, Mr. Wu said.

"We spend a lot of time thinking about jokes, refining them and how they can be said on different platforms like speakers and phones," he said. "We can think one day: What if Google Assistant is obsessed with elephants today? What jokes will he tell?

So for its simple Chinese feature, which was being gradually rolling from Tuesday, the team incorporated a Xiao Ming joke into the repertoire of comments as it may resonate with many, he explained.

The use of Xiao Ming locally as there go on Chinese works and exams has been so ubiquitous that everyone can appreciate the reference, Mr. Wu explained.

How long did the team spend thinking about Xiao Ming's jokes?

"I really do not know how much time we spent on it," Wu Wu said, adding that Google helps probably have a "dozen aisha" iterations of a joke but "not enough". They will be imported, he promised.

The second major challenge is to work across different languages ​​in this part of the world and scale up its content creation efforts, especially as jokes do not travel well.

"You can not just put a Xiao Ming joke into Google Translate and watch it work somewhere else," he explained.


In the end, it's about creating an emotional connection between the users and the Google virtual assistant, something the manager admitted could be a scary prospect for some.

Reading: A world dominated by robots? This artificial intelligence expert paints a different reality

Mr. Wu said that his mother, who is in her 80s, is among the generation that will find a technology that threatens to use it. "She would call me and ask me: 'How do I do that?'

Therefore, he stands the litmus test simply: "My mother must accept it."

Things have improved with Google sharing and share that his mom can now do a search using voice commands.

"I will not teach her how to use Google Assistant to call me!" He added with a laugh.

His personal goal: one day be able to talk to the machine as a friend.

"I need to be able to relate to (Google Assistant) on a personal level," he said, but added that he is not sure if it is even technologically feasible.

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