Improv skills lead to success

What Siri Can Teach You About Listening and Responding

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I’m jumping ahead a bit in my posts on listening and responding, but I just read MIT Technology Review’s terrific new article on Social Intelligence that explains the popularity of Siri, the personal assistant app resident in the iPhone 4S.

The article’s author interviewed Boris Katz, a principal research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, to get his take on why Siri works so well. Katz noted that Siri responds directly to task-related queries, varies its responses, and admits when it doesn’t know how to do something (such as posting to Twitter).

He also pointed out that Siri includes judicious bits of humor in its responses. When asked “Should I go to bed now?”, it might respond “I think you should sleep on it.” This type of gentle humor makes Siri seem more human and approachable. It’s the antithesis of “going for the joke” in a conversation or improv scene — the statement accepts what went before (the question) and responds appropriately given the server running the speech recognition and generation algorithms couldn’t possibly judge if it’s time for the user to go to bed.

You could do a lot worse than emulating Siri in your conversations.

Written by curtisfrye

May 3, 2012 at 11:14 pm

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