Maria Montero

Personality of things

Humans are starting to better familiarize yourself with personal assistants like Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and Bixby. But how would people feel about personalities that translate to cars, laptops, and other household items? Would we want a single perfect personality on all devices, or would we prefer to build new relationships with each of these things? Would we want these things to understand and empathize with us? Do we really need these things to “feel” what we feel or do we just need the experience that they “receive” us?

Human beings have an innate habit of anthropomorphizing objects around them, especially those that move, grow, or speak to them. As technological advances allow robotics and IoT devices to become more intelligent, humans are likely to assign personality to more devices that they interact with in their daily lives.

Once a simple tool, the vacuum is now a Roomba with a lighthearted and carefree personality, as it makes the chimes happy and makes its way through the living room. And while replacing a standard vacuum is not a big deal, many Roomba users demand that they take back their own robot from repairs and not “kill” and dispose of parts. They see him almost as part of the family.

The tools, on the other hand, are replaceable. And the more a smart system or piece of hardware feels like a tool, the more replaceable it becomes. In Star Trek, the crew doesn’t bother to replace and upgrade the ship’s computer, which speaks to them in a monotonous, disembodied voice because they see it as a tool. However, updates or maintenance for Commander Data, a member of the Android crew, raises great concern because his human form and personality make him feel alive and personal. Furthermore, studies have shown that humans are more likely to forgive mistakes if they come from a device they consider “alive,” while not having as much indulgence for things they see as tools.

How does this apply to our future? Logically, for a company concerned with improving retention and engagement, assigning a strong personality to a device seems like an obvious way to capitalize on human anthropomorphism and give it leeway for mistakes, while increasing retention and engagement. However, the real challenge is choosing how much personality to inject.

Personality risk?