Talking to technology 能與你聊天的“虛擬助手”

Who's your new best friend? Why and how are we talking to technology?
Virtual assistants.

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近來,一種能和人交談的新技術變得越來越受歡迎。這種被稱為“虛擬助手”的產品可以在我們的手機、電腦甚至是智慧音箱上找的到。它們可以給我們提供有用、瑣碎的信息,但這些能和我們聊天的“助手”會取代並成為和我們日夜促膝長談的摯友嗎?本集《隨身英語》討論虛擬助手技術給我們日常生活帶來的變化。

Vocabulary: technology 詞彙: 技術

It’s good to have friends that we can talk to and share our thoughts and opinions with. More importantly, they’re people we can ask for help or advice. But recently it seems, many of us are developing a new relationship with a mystery person that we’ll never meet!

I’m talking about virtual assistants or bots. These are pieces of software that we can talk to and it can talk back to us. Examples include Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. It might be on your phone or computer or even a smart speaker in your home. They are changing the way we interact with technology – instead of typing on a computer keyboard or tapping on a tablet, we can now speak and a voice will answer.

The people behind these voices are called conversation designers. Tom Hewitson is one of them. He told the BBC “this is kind of changing [computers] into like an agent. They’re an active participant in the interaction and in guiding you to make the right decision.” So he’s saying this cutting-edge technology has the ability to think for itself and make its own decisions.

It is a scary thought that this virtual voice can think for you – will it stop us using our own brains and will we lose the ability to write things down or type? They are certainly clever, helping you to book train tickets, give you the latest weather news or even tell you a joke. But are they really your new best friend?

One thing we can’t do yet is to make chit-chat or small talk with it. We have to alter the way we speak. As Tom Hewitson says “We will develop our own kind of vernacular for speaking with machines that will be subtly different from how we speak to other people… It can be much more brusque and to the point.”

But there’s no doubt this technology will soon be commonplace in our lives. This year Google Duplex was revealed, described by the company as artificial intelligence “for accomplishing real-world tasks over the phone”. It’s a type of chatbot that will allow you to, for example, chat to your hairdresser about when they can fit you in for a cut. Other companies are working on similar things. But before they perfect this new technology, don’t forget who your real friends are!

詞彙表

virtual assistant 虛擬助手
bot(能自動執行搜索任務的)網上機器人程序
software 軟體
smart speaker 智慧音箱
interact 交流,互動
conversation designer 對話設計師
agent (=something that causes change) 作用劑,動因
cutting-edge 最新的,尖端的
think for itself 獨立思考
chit-chat 聊天,閒談
small talk 閒聊
vernacular 方言,白話
brusque 無禮的,唐突的
commonplace 司空見慣的事情
artificial intelligence (AI) 人工智慧
real-world task 現實生活中的真實任務
chatbot 聊天機器人

測驗與練習

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。

1. How do you communicate with a virtual assistant?

2. Give an example of something, mentioned in this article, that this new technology can do for you.

3. True or false: We can talk to virtual assistants the same way we talk to our friends.

4. Why does the author fear that we may eventually stop using our brains?

5. Which verb used in the text means ‘make something completely free from faults’?

2. 請在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單字填入句子的空格處。

1. It’s hard to ______ with the teacher because I have to sit at the back of the class.

inactive       interact       interacted      interacting

2. Making contactless payments used to be quite unusual but now it’s ______.

real-world      agent      commonplace      cutting-edge

3. The train information screens are not working today because there is a problem with the ______.

software      artificial intelligence       agent      chatbot

4. This new driverless car really demonstrates ______ technology.

edge-cutting      cutting-edges      cut-edges      cutting-edge             

5. The local ______ was very different from what I had learnt at school so I couldn’t understand what people were saying. 

vernacular      chatbot      brusque      chit-chat

答案

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。

1. How do you communicate with a virtual assistant?
You talk to it / you use your voice.

2. Give an example of something, mentioned in this article, that this new technology can do for you.
They can book train tickets, give you the latest weather news or even tell you a joke.

3. True or false: We can talk to virtual assistants the same way we talk to our friends. 
False. Tom Hewitson, conversation designer, was quoted as saying “We will develop our own kind of vernacular for speaking with machines that will be subtly different from how we speak to other people.

4. Why does the author fear that we may eventually stop using our brains?
Because the new virtual assistants are able to think for themselves and make decisions.

5. Which verb used in the text means ‘make something completely free from faults’?
The word is ‘perfect’. “Other companies are working on similar things but before they perfect this new technology, don’t forget who your real friends are!”

2. 請在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單字填入句子的空格處。

1. It’s hard to interact with the teacher because I have to sit at the back of the class.

2. Making contactless payments used to be quite unusual but now it’s commonplace.

3. The train information screens are not working today because there is a problem with the software.

4. This new driverless car really demonstrates cutting-edge technology.

5. The local vernacular was very different from what I had learnt at school so I couldn’t understand what people were saying.

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