1931: Virtual Assistant

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Virtual Assistant
If you ask it to please turn off that feature, it apologizes a whole bunch and promises to try to be quieter, then switches to a slightly lower-volume version of the clip with "sorry!" after the louder sounds.
Title text: If you ask it to please turn off that feature, it apologizes a whole bunch and promises to try to be quieter, then switches to a slightly lower-volume version of the clip with "sorry!" after the louder sounds.

Explanation[edit]

Megan invokes her smart device's virtual assistant with the keyphrase "Okay Google", intending to follow up with a voice command (e.g. "Check the weather forecast" or "Order two tons of creamed corn"). But before she can continue, the smart device interrupts her with a comical cacophony of assorted noises, as a supposed assistant living in the device clumsily rushes from a distant room to Megan's location. The sounds can be interpreted as: tromping down stairwells, knocking over a fragile antique, opening a locked door, taking a quick pit stop in the bathroom, going back through the door, running across another hardwood floor, opening and slamming another door, and finally running up to Megan, greeting her while clearly being out of breath.

The idea of a product that is (in reality) a virtual assistant[citation needed] being an actual person with physical form was featured a few days before this comic on Live from Here on December 16, 2017, in a segment in which Amazon.com and its virtual assistant Alexa were satirized as "Amazon Lazy", which delivered the user things that were already in the user's home -- or simply carried the user from one room of the house to another. (Audio available at https://www.livefromhere.org/shows/59375)

Randall is amused by the idea that such a "virtual" assistant made "real" might be rather clumsy. In fact, Randall finds the concept so humorous that he would like to troll smart device owners by hacking and re-programming their devices to play this sound file whenever the VA is invoked. He makes it clear that he doesn't want to create a botnet with them, perhaps in reference to the infamous Mirai attacks of 2016, whose creators pled guilty in court a week before the comic was posted. Another similar activity that is gaining popularity is hacking IP webcams with embedded speakers for comedic purposes (here's a Youtube channel).

The title text extends the concept further. If the owner attempts to disable the feature, rather than refrain from playing the clip, the virtual assistant apologetically promises to be quieter next time; thereafter, the device plays a modified version of the clip where the noises are only slightly diminished and punctuated with additional apologies from the live-in assistant. Randall has characterized the assistant as being incapable of answering without causing a ruckus.

A previous comic, 1897: Self Driving, also toys with the idea that AI is actually just people behind-the-scenes. Sounds of things falling over and breaking off-screen is a comedic trope used in movies. The idea of making it look as if excessive work is put in to being ready to answer the user may be a reference to the Monty Python "it's" man.

Transcript[edit]

[Megan stands next to a small table with a Google Home sitting on it.]
Megan: Ok, Google–
Google Home: THUMP-THUMP-THUMP
Google Home: CRASH  THUD!
Google Home: CLICK  THUMP THUMP
Google Home: [sink running]
Google Home: ZIIIIIP!  CLICK
Google Home: THUMP THUMP  CLICK
Google Home: SLAM!
Google Home: THUMPATHUMPATHUMPA
Google Home: H... *Pant* ...Hello... *Pant*
Google Home: How... How can I help you?
[Text below the panel:]
I want to hack the world's smart home devices, but not to create a botnet or anything—I just want to make them play this sound clip every time you invoke them.


comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!

Discussion

I just set up Siri to do this: https://youtu.be/B32YLUa6bUg DPS2004'); DROP TABLE users;-- (talk) 15:54, 20 December 2017 (UTC)

Should use the actual sounds, not just somebody reading the words. 172.68.141.82 00:56, 23 December 2017 (UTC)
I would like to see you do that DPS2004'); DROP TABLE users;-- (talk) 18:47, 10 January 2018 (UTC)

The transcript has to follow the common layout as used in nearly all former comics. --Dgbrt (talk) 16:22, 20 December 2017 (UTC)

I feel like the explanation for this one missed the masturbation reference - the sounds of the sink and the zipper? 172.68.189.181 22:36, 20 December 2017 (UTC)

Agreed. It's like when the guys are at Chuckie's house in Good Will Hunting and Morgan gets called downstairs with the guiltiest look on his face. Here, the virtual assistant is doing something embarrassing and hides the evidence before addressing Megan's request. Doing up his pants is the zip, washing his hands is the sink running, running around hiding his magazines and toys makes up the thumps, clicks, and slams.D5xtgr (talk) 05:11, 22 December 2017 (UTC)
Not agreed. I don't see ANY reason to expect it about masturbation instead of just peeing. But I think the current explanation just discretely mentioning a pit stop suits either way to look at it. Lupo (talk)

Reminds me of Fibber McGee's closet from Fibber McGee and Molly. 172.68.141.82 00:54, 23 December 2017 (UTC)

Someone should hang a warning sign on that TvTropes link, you are playing with fire here! --Pax

The TvTropes links on this page actually have that. they have a mouseover (or alt text, or tooltip or whatever you wanna call it), mentioning the warning, when you hover over the link with the mouse. Lupo (talk)
What about those of us who don't use a mouse to click a link but instead tap the screen with a fingertip? I tried a tap-and-hold but no warning came up. ---- 172.68.65.210 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)


After several tries, I was able to turn off the "ok google" only by removing the right to use microphone from that application. "Not able to turn off" seem to been covered on my phone. Turn off assistant, yes, turn off listening and responding on "ok google" when on homescreen, no - when assistant was off, it just asked if it should turn it on. -- Hkmaly (talk) 19:55, 21 December 2017 (UTC)

Oversleeping / startled awake, then running into things (maybe because it's dark, or because balance can be off when you get up too fast) and flipping light switches seems more natural to me than locked doors. Elvenivle (talk) 00:52, 22 December 2017 (UTC)