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  • Rob: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute

  • English. I'm Rob.

  • Dan: And I'm Dan.

  • Rob: Hey Dan. What's the time?

  • Dan: Time you got a new watch?

  • Rob: Now I didn't ask you that just for a

  • joke or a sarcastic comment now did I?

  • Dan: Well no, but look there's a clock over

  • there, and you are wearing a watch, you

  • have a smartphone and a computer,

  • all of which show the time.

  • So why are you asking me?

  • Rob: Dan! I was trying to introduce today's

  • topic which is all about virtual assistants

  • or bots.

  • You seemed to have forgotten the script.

  • Dan: Oh yes, sorry. We're talking about

  • software that you talk to and that can talk

  • back to you. Like Apple's Siri, Google's

  • Assistant, Amazon's Alexa and

  • Microsoft's Cortana.

  • It might be on your phone or computer or

  • even a speaker in your house.

  • Rob: Now before we hear more about this

  • topic, here is today's quiz question:

  • Do you know when was the first computer

  • which could recognise speech, launched?

  • Was it in a) 1951 b) 1961, or c) 1971.

  • Dan: I have found my script, so I've seen

  • the answer but I have to say I was

  • surprised.

  • Rob: Don't tell anybody Dan, OK. We'll give

  • the answer for the listeners at the end of

  • the programme. We're going to hear now

  • from Tom Hewitson, who is a

  • conversation designer, working in the field

  • of virtual assistants, talking on BBC Radio

  • 4's Word of Mouth programme.

  • He talks about the whole idea of virtual

  • assistants and how they are changing the

  • way we interact with technology.

  • How does he describe our existing

  • relationship with computers?

  • Tom Hewitson: It changes the way that

  • we think about computers.

  • To date we've thought of them largely as

  • tools. They're just an advanced version

  • of a calculator. They're something you

  • kind of use to get a specific thing done,

  • whereas this is kind of changing them

  • more into like an agent. They're an active

  • participant in the kind of interaction and in

  • guiding you to make the right decision.

  • Rob: How did he describe our existing

  • relationship with computers then?

  • Dan: He said that to date, which is an

  • expression which means 'up until this

  • point in time', we have thought of them

  • as advanced calculators.

  • Rob: Yes, that's right, we use them as a

  • tool to get things done. But he says that

  • modern technology is turning them into

  • an agent.

  • This doesn't mean a secret agent, like

  • James Bond! In this sense an agent is

  • something that has agency and that

  • means it has the ability to act individually

  • and make its own decisions.

  • Dan: I'm not sure I'd like my phone to have

  • agency. It probably wouldn't like being

  • in my pocket all day.

  • Rob: Who would Dan? But I'm not sure

  • Hewitson is suggesting our devices would

  • become that clever but he did say they

  • could become more active in our lives.

  • Dan: Maybe. I imagine, for example,

  • telling us if we are spending too much

  • time in fast food restaurants?

  • Rob: Maybe in your case Dan. Mine would

  • be telling me I spend too much time in the gym!

  • Hewitson goes on to explain how

  • the way we will talk to our virtual

  • assistants will develop.

  • What does he say we don't need to do?

  • Tom Hewitson: We will develop our own

  • kind of vernacular for speaking with

  • machines that will be subtly

  • different from how we speak to other

  • people because as you rightly point out

  • you don't need to make the machine like

  • you don't need to kind of make random

  • chit-chat that's just filling the time. It can

  • be much more brusque and to the point.

  • Dan: A lot of what we say in human

  • communication is to do with our

  • relationship with the person we're talking to.

  • Rob: We say things and talk about things

  • that are maybe not directly relevant to our

  • point. With a digital virtual assistant, we

  • don't need to do that, so we don't need to

  • make the machine like us.

  • Dan: Hewitson said that we will develop

  • our own vernacular, this is a general word

  • for a native language. This vernacular will

  • be a little bit different from our everyday

  • vernacular because, as we said, we don't

  • need to maintain a social relationship

  • with the artificial assistant.

  • Rob: This means that we won't need

  • chit-chat. Chit-chat is another expression

  • for small talk: conversation topics which

  • aren't important but are part of everyday

  • social communication, like talking about

  • the weather.

  • Dan: And because we don't need to be

  • friends with our virtual assistants, we can

  • be brusque and to the point. Both of these

  • mean being very direct and not very

  • polite.

  • Rob: Well Dan, I don't mean to be brusque but

  • it is time for the answer to this week's

  • quiz question. Earlier I asked when was

  • the first computer which could recognise

  • speech, launched. The options were:

  • a) 1951, b) 1961, or c) 1971.

  • Well actually the first computer which

  • could recognise speech was launched in 1961.

  • Dan: Yep! It was called the IBM Shoebox and

  • could recognise 16 words and the

  • numbers zero to nine. That's nearly as

  • many as you!

  • Rob: Cheeky! Right enough of this

  • chat-chat. Let's recap today's vocabulary.

  • Dan: Well chit-chat was one of today's

  • expressions. Meaning 'small talk', but we

  • also had the expression to date. That

  • means 'up until this moment in time'.

  • Rob: Then we had the noun agent. This

  • refers to something that has agency. And

  • that is the ability to think, make decisions

  • and act independently.

  • Dan: The next word is vernacular, another

  • word for language, particularly when

  • talking about a native language.

  • Rob: And finally there was brusque

  • meaning 'direct and not polite' and to the

  • point, which also means 'direct and without

  • unnecessary information'.

  • Dan: Hey Rob

  • Rob: Yes, what can I do for you Dan?

  • Dan: End the programme.

  • Rob: Certainly Dan. Well that's all from us

  • today, be sure to check us out on all the

  • usual places: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

  • and YouTube, and of course please don't

  • forget our website

  • bbclearningenglish.co m. Bye for now!

  • Dan: Bye!

Rob: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute

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A2 UK dan rob virtual chat chit agent

Learn to talk about virtual assistants in 6 minutes

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    Samuel posted on 2018/06/08
Video vocabulary