Despite their complexity, voice activated virtual assistants and their respective smart speakers are designed to appear deceivingly simple. Siri, Alexa and Google all reside within their own monochrome oblong pillars; unified by their feminised robot-voices and lack of discernable character traits.
By designing virtual assistants to be so unremarkable - it is less likely that their user will percieve them as a privacy threat.
They blend in to our homes so seamlessly that we barely even notice their presence - making them the prime tools for what Adam Greenfield defines as preemptive data capture; “the notion that companies such as Amazon and Google might as well trawl up everything they can, because no one knows what value might be derived from it in the future”.
There is of course a less cynical reason for domestic AI’s to stay robot-like, as too much personality and human-like expression might limit (or distract from) their primary purpose as functional domestic utilities. However this strategy hinders the potential for meaningful interaction and perhaps even meaningful relationships with domestic AI’s.
This (ongoing) project proposes a series of fictional virtual assistants - each of which embodies a different personality (loosely) based on Hippocrates’ ‘four temperements’: the choleric, the sanguine, the melancholic and the phlegmatic. Each assistant provides a different service to its user, and each employs its own tactic to gain its users’ trust. Instead of relying on the formula of seamlessness interaction, accustomed to most smart devices, these assistants endeavour to form trusting relationships with their users through character development, tone of voice and exaggerated physical appearances.