There’s no denying that Alexa – Amazon’s voice-operated personal assistant – is astonishing technology. She tells you the weather, does your online shopping, even tells you jokes.
It’s all very impressive when it’s coming from a small, featureless tabletop device. But when she’s speaking through a Big Mouth Billy Bass – the motion-sensor activated, animatronic nightmare-fish figure of your childhood – like a possessive spirit, she suddenly becomes objectively creepy.
Developer Brian Kane, who works as a teacher at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), has hacked his Alexa so that she responds to questions and commands through Billy, who moves his head and mouth in time with the response.
Posted by Brian Kane on Thursday, 27 October 2016
“This piece was an in-class demo to show the students how to rapid prototype a concept and get it working quickly, so that we can test new ideas on people and make decisions,” Kane said.
“We’re looking at AI as artists and designers, making new experiences and using the design process to find out what life can be like in a world of intelligent machines.”
Kane pointed out that an important element of technology, which is often ignored, is consumers’ emotional connection to a product.
“So much of the industry is dominated by engineering and business, but ultimately the success of these new products will be that people can make an emotional attachment to them, and that’s what artists have been doing for generations,” he said.
We see his point, but our only emotional response to Billy is a kind of nostalgic fear – not what you want to inspire with your expensive, advanced technology.
Kane also told Mashable that he plans to keep his Billy-Alexa (Billexa?) for his personal use, though to be frank we can’t think of anything worse than being constantly watched by that thing.