How Long Until We Get An AI Operating System Like OS1 From 'Her'?

November 15, 2017 6:00 AM
Her Operating System
I've given up on getting a girlfriend, now all I want is an AI operating system like Joaquin Phoenix has in the movie 'Her' but how far off having my own version of Samantha to chat to in the real world are we?

We're all familiar with Siri, the "intelligent" voice-controlled personal assistant which Apple acquired in 2011 and rolled out across their devices, including most recently on MacBooks and iMacs. Then there's Iris the Android alternative to Siri, which has actually been around longer than Apple's version.

Iris didn't take off, but Google Assistant is now available on Android devices, activated with the famous "OK Google" command. Goggle have rolled out their assistant into their device Google Home, which looks a bit like an air freshener.

Facebook are also experimenting with their "M" personal assistant, which pops up in the Messenger app in the form of a text conversation, rather than voice command - so, that's not really what I'm looking for.

Then there's the new kid on the block, the Amazon Echo. This is the home assistant that I've opted for personally and she's not bad. Amazon have said that their longterm aim is for users to be able to have "meaningful conversations" with Alexa.

There's plenty of new products in development which hope to rival Apple, Google, and Amazon's offerings, could one of these independent products bring us a step closer to a fully intelligent, self-aware operating system? Well, it's possible, after all Siri was an independent app which was add to the App Store, two months later Apple snapped it up.

One such product is Olly, the makers claim it's "the first home robot with personality". Olly is due for release early next year, after being successfully funded via a crowdfunding campaign. The British team behind Olly say that their home assistant has an evolving personality, and is as unique as you are.

It is possible that one of these technologies could spawn the first, true artificially intelligent operating system, but how far off of this milestone in computing are we? With so many companies battling to be the first to offer AI assistants, we currently have the perfect breeding ground for an artificial intelligence to emerge.

Some people predict that by 2029 technological advancement will occur at such an explosive rate we won't be able to predict what happens next. AI will be part of this explosion of advancement, although it may emerge some time before this.

Until then, all we can really speculate about is what AI means and what the basic requirements for a self-aware, AI operating system are.

What Makes Samantha Different To Siri?

OS1 Loading

In the movie 'Her', straight off we know there's something different about Joaquin Phoenix's character, Theodore's new operating system. When Theodore asks "what do I call you? Do you have a name?" and the OS answers, "yes, Samantha." She then explains that in 200th of a second after he asked the question, she read a list of over 800k names and gave the name Samantha to herself because she "liked the sound of it".

This ability to make a decision based on a preference is a level of self-awareness that doesn't exist in any computer system today and is the reason that in the movie Samantha is able to develop her own personality and fall in love with Theodore.

So, I think my expectations for an AI OS would be for it to demonstrate a good level of self-awareness, and be able to make decisions and have its own opinions.

For an OS to be able to prove this to me, I'd want to be able to ask a few question which prove that it's doing more than just following pre-programmed routines. For this example, let's call my OS Alexa as that's the platform I've already adopted.

While Alexa is playing music, I'd like to be able to say "Alexa, what did he sing about love?" and she would answer "he said he wants to know what love is". That would prove that Alexa isn't just playing an MP3, she would be listening to the music that's passing through her and understanding the context of the lyrics, as well as my question.

I would also want to be able to give instructions like "Alexa, flash your lights in time with the music", if Alexa could then flash her LED lights to the beat of the music, it would show that she is aware of her physical form and knows how to control it in order to flash her lights, as well as understanding the rhythm and structure of music.

Another example would be if your OS was playing a movie, being able to ask the question "Alexa, what else has that guy been in?" And she'd then be able to recognise the actor on screen, look him up online and tell me what else I might have seen him in... so not just a list of his works from IMDB but she'd list movies I might have seen first based on my tastes, watch history.

Why Do I Want An Intelligent OS?

Amazon Echo

Personally I like that voice activated devices fit well with my lifestyle, I don't want a phone stuck in front of my face all the time and the sooner we move away from screens as a society the better. The beauty of voice commands is that the technology can be discreetly embedded in to our homes.

Alexa is good, I like that I can set timers when I'm cooking without touching surfaces, I like being able to ask basic questions about dates and times, and things it can Bing without having to dig out an iPad.

Where Alexa is currently lacking is that it isn't in any way proactive. I want an OS that can learn my habits and preempt my needs. For example, if I regularly listen to a certain podcast, then I'd like an OS that says "hey Steve, there's a new episode of that podcast you like". It could perhaps do this when it realises I'm at home and at a loose end, maybe at a time when I'm not listening to or watching anything and am idly surfing the internet.

I'd also like a true virtual assistant, an OS that can take compound instructions, so I could give instructions like "Alexa, keep an eye on flights to L.A. and let me know when they're cheap". Or, "remind me to go the new shopping centre on the next rainy day".

It would also be nice to have an OS or intelligence which spans multiple devices. At the moment I ask Alexa to turn my lights on, but I ask Google to navigate somewhere for me when I'm in the car.

I guess, until a Samantha comes into my life, I'll just have to settle for Alexa.
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