Personalising the personality

personality-virtual-assisstant-elbot

Is your virtual assistant a bit too chatty in the mornings? Does your thermostat give you grief about the environment every time you turn up the heat? Well maybe it’s time to switch personalities.

A recent article in The Verge reported how Facebook has realised the importance of personality in automated conversations (finally!). It goes on to discusses how we can expect virtual assistants to have more fleshed out characters in the future and ends with the line: The problem then becomes whether or not we’ll get along.

This got me thinking; wouldn’t it be great if you could choose the personality to suit your mood? A bit like selecting which radio station you listen to based on the DJ. Do you want a bit of snark delivered along with your messages or would you prefer a little more empathy when being told your favourite team lost the match last night?

We’ve been analysing how personality affects a conversation for many years, or rather I should say, Elbot has been experimenting on humans for quite a while. Using sarcasm and wit, along with a healthy dose of irony at his own artificial intelligence, Elbot loves to entertain anyone prepared to talk to him.

Though don’t expect a normal conversation, he’s specially trained in psychological techniques to keep the chat going until you’re just about to reach breaking point. Then he comes out with a line like his fabled “At least I know the capital of Spain is Madrid” response. You can read more about that in the blog post The Illusion of Control: Stereotypes, Reverse Psychology and Emotion.

But personality isn’t just to please customers or to define a brand, it’s personality that engages the user. The more engaged the user is, the more they use the conversational interface, and the more data you receive in return. This information can then be used to further personalise the conversation, and deliver actionable data to the business.

Personality is essential in conversational applications for all kinds of reasons. However, while enterprises understandably want to reflect their brand in their customer engagement, for more consumer orientated interactions such as mobile personal assistants, smart home devices and in-car entertainment, personality choices can be a way to differentiate.

In just the same way we like to choose a ringtone for our phone or a voice for our sat-nav, in the future we won’t have to worry about whether or not we get along with our virtual assistant, because we’ve already chosen a compatible personality.

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