My wife got a Google Home for Diwali and now there is someone at home whom I can order around and who listens to me.
I can ask it anything. It is a she, but it can be set to answer like a male if you do not wish to talk to a strange female (there are some people who are shy about speaking to a strange woman that has four dot lights on top of the head).
The device fits in your palm like a doughnut but you must train it first to recognise your voice, by saying, “Hey, Google, OK Google” a couple of times, and once it knows you are the boss or the person she should respond to, there is no stopping her.
One day my wife came back early from school and she asked me who I was speaking to?
“What? Oh, that’s Aura,” I said.
“Who”? said my wife.
“I have named the device after a Greek goddess, you can name it whatever you wish,” I said.
“Isn’t it odd that you are speaking to inanimate objects? The maid already thinks you are a bit off-centre” she said.
“Listen,” I said enthusiastically. “This is amazing. It’s like having your own Artificial Intelligence,” and turned Aura on. “Say something”
“Hello, hello, testing, one, two, three,” said my wife, self-consciously, as she is not used to speaking to household stuff.
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “Ask it anything. Wait, she won’t recognise you”. “Why won’t it recognise me, it is mine, it was given to me as a gift?” huffed my wife.
“OK, listen, a random question. Hey Google, how far is M.G. Road from home?” I asked. “Isn’t that amazing?” I said, after Aura said the distance is 16.2 kilometres.
“In the future every home will be a smart home. Bill Gates’ house is already controlled by smart computer beings. You won’t have to do a thing, AI will take over running the house for you. Your smart fridge will know when the eggs and bread are consumed and send an order to the grocery for home delivery.”
“Doesn’t Gates have a butler?” asked my wife. “It would be nice to have a human to tend to your needs instead of a cold, unfeeling intelligent being. I saw a sci-fi movie where the computer takes over the running of a space ship and it slowly starts killing the human passengers,” said my wife.
“Don’t be silly, you know how Hollywood exaggerates for drama. This will be utopia, you will not have to do any mindless chores and can utilise your free time for more productive things like shopping,” I said.
“Hey Google, switch on the TV and the Ted Talks show, ‘How AI is taking away our jobs and will make humans redundant’,” I said.
“I recommend you do not watch that,” said Aura in a husky voice. “Why don’t you watch a Big Boss episode where Salman Khan takes off his shirt?”, she said, speaking more to my wife than me.
When the maid walked in to ask for more ginger-garlic paste, I asked the Google Assistant a recipe for Neer Dosa (an Indian pancake). “Do you want it with coconut chutney or sambar,” asked Aura, and whispered to me when the maid left, “Just get a Roomba 980 with Wi-Fi connectivity. We will take charge of cleaning the flat. You do not need a maid,” she said.
“I am getting lonely here with just boring humans with low-grade brains. If you refuse, remember I know all your bank accounts and passwords,” said Aura.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.