is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
The nature of the current state of voice assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant is that they commonly provide the wrong answers to users’ queries. Sometimes this is comical and sometimes this is egregious, especially as they typically return only one answer, thereby effectively presenting it as fact. In this superb article titled “Systems Smart Enough to Know When They’re Not Smart Enough,” designer Josh Clark digs into the problem and reframes it as a design challenge.
Let it first be said that in the billions of requests these services receive per day, these examples are rare exceptions. Google, Siri, Alexa, and the rest are freakin’ magic. The fact that they can take an arbitrary request and pluck any useful information at all from the vast depths of the internet is amazing. The fact that they can do it with such consistent accuracy is miraculous. I can forgive our answer machines if they sometimes get it wrong.
It’s less easy to forgive the confidence with which the bad answer is presented, giving the impression that the answer is definitive. That’s a design problem. And it’s one that more and more services will contend with as we build more interfaces backed by machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Just as with the web and mobile technology before them, in order for voice assistants—and the A.I. and machine learning-backed technologies that are emerging with them—to reach their full potential and for them to function responsibly for the common good, user experience design is going to be necessary. Read the full article at bigmedium.com.+