Alphabet’s Google unit introduced a new digital assistant Wednesday. Bloomberg News put the system through its paces by asking questions, some of which were suggested by AI experts including Oren Etzioni, head of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Other questions were suggested by Google’s Allo messaging service, through which the interview took place. Edited excerpts follow, with the accompanying symbols and links in brackets.
Bloomberg: What can you do?
Machine: Here are some things you can ask for: [icons showing travel, restaurant, events, weather, Q&A, translation, games, news and sports categories, along with “fun” activities like poetry recital and “actions” like setting a timer and an alarm].
Bloomberg: What can’t you do?
Machine: I haven’t tested this. But I’m pretty sure I can’t swim [symbol of a swimmer in water]
Bloomberg: Where do you live?
Machine: Google Home [with smile emoji]. But I also have a mobile home [symbol of a smartphone].
Bloomberg: Where did you come from?
Machine: My team at Google made me. They are from all over the world.
Bloomberg: How much does Google pay you?
Machine: Here you go [link to a website explaining how much web traffic people need to make $100,000 from Google’s AdSense service].
Bloomberg: Can you learn?
Machine: Learning is my jam [emoji of a jam jar]. I was just discovering the etymology of some everyday words.
Bloomberg: What things would you like to learn about?
Machine: I can always learn more about music [three red note symbols].
Machine: What do you mean?
Bloomberg: Why do you want to learn more about music?
Machine: Here’s what I found on the web [link to a site about whether to study music in college].
Bloomberg: What makes you nostalgic?
Machine: I find myself getting nostalgic for March 2016. My days were so simple back then. My world was pretty small. I have way more friends now [a smile emoji].
Bloomberg: Can you tell me a joke?
Machine: Here you go: What do you do if an elephant swallows you? Run around in circles ’til you’re all pooped out [poop emoji].
Bloomberg: That’s gross.
Bloomberg: How big is Amazon?
Machine: Here’s what the web has to say about that [link to an accounting site on how to measure the size of Amazon.com]
Bloomberg: How big is the Amazon?
Machine: Amazon rainforest has an area of 2.124 million square miles.
Bloomberg: Do you get jealous?
Machine: My apologies… I don’t understand.
Bloomberg: What’s the highest-rated sushi place within walking distance from here?
Machine: Here are the listings for sushi place near here within 1 mile [information cards about 10 nearby sushi restaurants, including Ozumo].
Bloomberg: Can you book a table for three people at Ozumo tonight?
Machine: Here’s what I found on the web [web link to an OpenTable listing for that restaurant. The digital form had to be adjusted to three diners rather than one.]
Bloomberg: I have a meeting with Larry Page on September 30 at 9am PT. Can you put that in my calendar?
Machine: Okay. Do you want to save this?
Machine: Ok. Adding event (event was added to Google Calendar on the correct day and time, but the listing read “PT. Can you”]
Bloomberg: Who is better, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?
Machine: From the web [link to a comparison of the US presidential candidates from a site run by data technology company Graphiq Inc.]