As one-time Microsoft employee James Fallows phrased it, “The next billion times you typed ‘Dear …’ and saw Clippy pop up, you wanted to scream.” By 2001, Clippy was getting pink slips from Microsoft.
Clippy interrupted you, but Alexa and Siri only show up when you call. “We are just at the beginning of social interface,” Bill Gates told a crowd at the CES trade show in 1995.
They analyze and sort your photos and email in the background. “The whole way you interact with the machine will be different, you’ll be able to talk to the machine, and it will use voice recognition, or so-called natural-language processing, to be able to understand what you do.” This sounded like an absurd thing to say when you consider that he was announcing the technology that would become the world’s most-hated paper clip.
The Assistant feature was meant to function, well, like an assistant: You could ask it to do something, and then it would perform the task … Automated assistants are a black box into which you place a request, and a response comes out the other end.
The Big Idea behind Clippy was to move away from the strict, regimented flow of computer tasks.
But the underlying tech, like the “Microsoft Actor” file format, was updated and repurposed for a new project.
In November of the next year, Microsoft released the latest version of its suite of applications, Office 97.Each of these dozen characters, moreover, has a distinct and often obtrusive personality; Bob users interact with their PCs by communicating with a psychotic MTV rat, a coffee-drinking lizard, a submissive rabbit, a hostile parrot, and other oddly-behaved creatures.As a program, Microsoft Bob was a notorious flop, and little-known.It was added to Windows 97 and later discontinued in newer versions of the operation system.The idea behind Clippy was to offer users immediate help with different projects.Clippy jokingly assumed that “XP” stood for “Ex-Paperclip.” By 2007, Clippy had been relegated to the dustbin of history, and Microsoft’s Assistant initiative was practically dead.But a funny thing happened in the intervening years.But if you’ve talked to your i Phone or your Amazon speaker or asked Google a question in plain English, you know he was right.Eventually, we got to the point where AI assistants are a viable option for computing.You’ll hear people with titles like “chief experience officer” and “thinkfluence concierge” talk about “neural networks” and “machine learning” and “natural language processing.” Alexa, Siri, Cortana … The idea is, you can talk to your computer as if it were a person.Granted, a child with a relatively limited vocabulary and set of skills, but technically, that counts.