Typing to AI assistants might be the way to go (2024)

There’s a time and place for everything. In the privacy of my own home, I’ve got no problem saying “hey” to Google, Alexa, Siri, Meta, and on occasion, Bixby. But out in public? Where other people can perceive me? I’d rather crawl under a rock.

This has been one of my biggest problems with AI gadgets these past few months. All of them seem convinced that the best way to interact with AI assistants is to actually talk to them, not unlike the movie Her. In reality, I’ve rarely seen my friends and family use their phone’s assistants when we’re hanging out privately and never out in public. So it felt like a tiny “Aha!” moment when, during last week’s WWDC keynote, Apple mentioned that iOS 18 will let you type to Siri instead.

Technically, you can already do this via the iPhone’s accessibility settings. (Go to Accessibility > Siri > Type to Siri.) This brings up a fairly bare-bones window and keyboard for you to type a command in. But in iOS 18, Apple embraces the feature, letting you double-tap the bottom of the screen to bring up a Siri keyboard. You’ll also be able to see quick suggestions that you can simply tap instead of having to type (or say) a whole query out.

There are a ton of reasons why this just makes sense. While digital assistants have gotten better at understanding commands, it’s still tough to talk to them naturally. At home, I feel myself affecting a certain pitch and tone when I use a wake word. I find myself thinking beforehand about how I want to word a query. In spite of myself, I still occasionally botch it when asking Google to turn my living room lights to 25 percent brightness. I feel even more self-conscious if I have to do this in public.

Outside, it’s also incredibly noisy. While testing the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses’ multimodal AI features, I often had the AI tell me that the glasses couldn’t hear me properly. Either my environment was too loud, or I was subconsciously so embarrassed I spoke too quietly for the device to clearly pick up what I was saying. That led to a ton of frustration, which, in turn, caused me to whip out my phone — the exact opposite of what AI hardware wants me to do.

It’s not just newfangled AI gadgets, either. Speaking into a smartwatch looks cool if you’re James Bond. Most of us are not. If anything, most people I see doing it look a little confused and frustrated. Is this vain? Yes. But self-consciousness is a big reason why people may be hesitant to experiment with voice-controlled assistants when they’re out and about. A 2018 PwC survey into voice assistant use found that 74 percent of consumers prefer to use voice assistants at home, with participants saying that using them in public “just looks weird.” In the same survey, lack of trust was identified as another major hurdle to using voice assistants in general — people just didn’t believe that a voice assistant would correctly understand commands. If experience tells you an AI assistant likely won’t understand you, why would you bother trying to use it in a place where you’re more likely to be judged? (Also, imagine saying “Hey Siri” and activating your fellow commuters’ iPhones. New nightmare unlocked.)

Tech logistics aside, typing to your AI assistant also affords you a greater degree of privacy. I don’t need people to know what I’m doing on my phone, even if it’s something as innocuous as playing a song or setting a timer. I especially don’t want to dictate texts aloud when others can hear me. Typing those kinds of queries allows me to keep my business to myself — and, for that, I’m happy to sacrifice some hands-free capabilities.

I’m not denying that there are reasons why you might need to speak to an assistant, even in public settings. Voice commands are especially useful if you don’t have use of your hands or are driving a car. But having multiple ways to interact with AI assistants lets them fit more seamlessly into how we want to use our gadgets — instead of forcing everyone to adopt new paradigms. Maybe one day, it won’t feel weird to talk to a chatbot out loud while walking down the street. For most people, that day isn’t today. And until such a time comes, I’ll happily type to Siri instead.

Typing to AI assistants might be the way to go (2024)


What is the AI assistant that can do anything? ›

Google Assistant, a powerful AI from Google, works on anything from your phone and watch to your TV and even car. It can manage tasks, make calls, send texts and emails with a voice command.

Are there any good AI personal assistants? ›

Amazon Alexa – Best for at-home tasks

Amazon Alexa is an intelligent voice assistant that can control smart home devices, get information, set reminders, and more. The voice assistant is activated by saying “Alexa” or “Amazon.” From there, it responds to your voice interaction.

How are AI assistants helpful? ›

AI Assistant also called an AI Virtual Assistant, is software powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that responds to inquiries in human-like languages in text or voice format. It leverages natural language processing (NLP) to process, understand and generate responses to the system users in a conversational manner.

Can I use AI as a personal assistant? ›

True to their name, AI virtual assistants offer support and assistance to human users across different tasks and domains. Moreover, their services can integrate seamlessly into your personal and professional lives.

Who is the most intelligent AI assistant? ›

Otter.ai stands out as one of the most advanced AI assistants, offering features such as meeting transcription, live automated summaries, and action item creation.

What is the AI thing everyone is using? ›

As a leader in the AI space, Google Assistant is considered to be one of the most advanced virtual assistants of its kind on the market. Using natural language processing, it supports both voice and text commands, and can handle everything from internet searches to voice-activated control of other devices.

How much does an AI assistant cost? ›

AI Virtual Assistants: The Digital Efficiency

These can range from as low as $20 per month for basic services to around $500 per month for advanced, enterprise-level solutions.

What is the best free AI assistant? ›

Overview of Best AI Personal Assistants
RankAI Personal AssistantsStarting Price
🥇Google AssistantFree
🥈Amazon AlexaFree
Feb 15, 2024

Is there a downside to AI? ›

The drawbacks of AI include job displacement, ethical concerns about bias and privacy, security risks from hacking, a lack of human-like creativity and empathy.

Is ChatGPT an AI assistant? ›

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- OpenAI, makers of ChatGPT, are out with a new AI model called GPT-4o. Supporters say the latest artificial intelligence language model will make ChatGPT smarter and easier to use. GPT-4o will turn ChatGPT into a digital personal assistant. It can interpret and generate text, images and audio.

Is Siri an AI? ›

Siri Inc. Siri is a spin-off from a project developed by the SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center. Its speech recognition engine was provided by Nuance Communications, and it uses advanced machine learning technologies to function.

Does Alexa use AI? ›

Alexa Conversations

An AI-driven approach to dialog management that lets customer use the phrases they prefer in the order they prefer and requires less code.

Is an AI assistant worth it? ›

For many routine digital tasks, AI assistants can save you significant time and effort, making them well worth exploring.

Can I create my own AI assistant? ›

AI is becoming increasingly accessible to individuals. With the right tools and some know-how, you can create a personal AI assistant specialized for your needs.

Can I create an AI of myself? ›

Creating an AI version of yourself can be accomplished using AI video maker software or apps. Here's a general step-by-step process: Choose an AI platform: There are many tools available, some free and some paid, which allow you to create an AI version of yourself. Select the one that suits your needs and budget.

What AI can really do right now? ›

1. E-Commerce
  • Personalized Shopping. ...
  • AI-Powered Assistants. ...
  • Fraud Prevention. ...
  • Administrative Tasks Automated to Aid Educators. ...
  • Creating Smart Content. ...
  • Voice Assistants. ...
  • Personalized Learning. ...
  • Autonomous Vehicles.

What is better than ChatGPT? ›

What is the best alternative to ChatGPT? The best alternative to ChatGPT completely depends on one's specific needs. However, Google Bard, Bing AI, and Jasper are the ones at the top of the list.

Is ChatGPT the best AI? ›

Best AI chatbot overall

ChatGPT is a conversational AI chatbot released in November 2022 by OpenAI that has been massively successful because of its advanced capabilities.

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