The AI-powered Google Assistant has some advice for human dads. Say “Advice from dads,” and the intelligent assistant will play advice to new or future fathers from real dads. Sometimes the advice is practical, like keeping absorbent material in every room in your house, but a lot of it is about relationships, like making sure you spend one-on-one quality time with each of your kids.
“Look at your children not just as an extension of yourself but as an unformulated possibility, and allow them to develop into what they can be,” said Isaiah, father of four.
Drew, father of two, said, “It’s kind of like a flavor of friendship and a level of connection with somebody that you didn’t realize was possible. You’re so emotionally bound up in everything they do that you almost lose yourself in their world. It helps you see the world from a totally different perspective.”
Each of the dozen or so snippets of advice is roughly 10-15 seconds long. Say “Stories about fatherhood,” and Google Assistant will share 1-2 minute stories from StoryCorps.
Both StoryCorps and “Advice from dads” bring a kind of storytelling to the Google Assistant experience that is the antithesis of the heartless, AI-powered intelligent assistant, as part of what the StoryCorps app calls a mission to “create an archive of the wisdom of humanity.”
StoryCorps launched in New York City in 2003 with a single listening station in Grand Central Station. Two years later, listening booths began to travel across the United States. Today, the initiative to collect stories of shared humanity has permanent listing booths in San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago and has published books about moms, love, the purpose of work, and other topics.
The StoryCorps archive of more than 65,000 interviews — some recorded with the StoryCorps app, some in listening booths — is housed by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
For Father’s Day, StoryCorps gets into the stories of families like the Starkloffs, who had to fight to adopt their daughter, or the story of the Mortillaros and their father-son locksmith business that was started by the father, who dropped out of school in eighth grade and said being raised by immigrant parents meant working seven days a week and still being called lazy.
In a conversation between Phil and Phil Jr., the son says, “You raised all of us, man, five kids and every single one of them did not ever want for anything, man. That’s hard to do for someone who went up to the eighth grade.”
The dad responds, “You know, you do your best, kid, that’s what you do, but honestly your best, not the B.S. best, and even if you fail, it doesn’t feel that bad.”
Google Assistant has shared StoryCorps clips on half a dozen occasions this year, from Women’s Day to Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Black History Month.
Say “Tell me Pride stories,” and Google Assistant will share the experiences of gay, lesbian, or transgender people, perhaps the result of a 2014 StoryCorps initiative begun to gather LGBTQ stories.
Storytelling like the kind on display for Father’s Day was likely devised by the Google Assistant personality team, which works to give the intelligent assistant more humanlike attributes, team lead and chief Google doodler Ryan Germick told VentureBeat in an interview earlier this year. They also write the jokes Google Assistant tells and helped make it a game show host.
Google Assistant has changed a lot in recent months. The assistant is now able to do a number of things it wasn’t able to do at launch last fall, ranging from the creation of a calendar event to sharing reminders or the ability to recognize up to six unique voices in a household.
Hot on the heels of Google Assistant and Alexa-enabled devices from Amazon, a series of serious competitors have sprung up.
Apple’s HomePod, set to retail for $349, is due out by the end of 2017. Expected to be the first smart speaker with Microsoft’s Cortana inside, the Harman Kardon Invoke is scheduled to hit Microsoft store shelves this fall.
In Japan, Line debuted its intelligent assistant-enabled devices this week at the Line Conference. The cute bear and duck smart speakers with Clova are also due out soon, while later this month Samsung’s Bixby is expected to hit Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphones in the United States, after some delays.