OK Google… open fire: Artist fires a gun remotely by issuing commands to his Google Assistant in a ‘disturbing’ video
- Google Home fires the gun when it hears the command ‘Ok Google, activate gun’
- Artist and roboticist Alexander Reben said building the set-up was ‘easy’
- The video was created to showcase the unintended consequences of technology
Google Assistant is now capable of firing a handgun.
The artificial intelligent (AI) assistant has been filmed pulling the trigger for the first time as part of a new video project from artist Alexander Reben.
‘Ok Google, activate gun,’ Reben can be heard off-screen telling the Google Home.
The 30-second ‘disturbing’ video shows the smart speaker process his command, and then pull the air pistol trigger — firing a round into an apple and knocking it from its perch next to the gun.
Google Assistant also responds, saying: ‘Sure, turning on the gun.’
Artist and roboticist Alexander Reben said creating the Google Home-activated weapon was ‘easy’.
An electromagnet taken from the change-dispensing mechanism in a laundromat was used to pull a string tied around the trigger and fire the pistol.
Reben used a voice-control enabled smart plug to control when the current passed through the electromagnet and set-up the Google Assistant to refer to the mains switch as the ‘gun’.
Although his demonstration uses a Google Home, Reben said he could have easily rigged-up the same remote-trigger mechanism with an Amazon Echo, or ‘some other input device as well’.
He hopes the video will start a debate around the boundaries of what AIs should be allowed to do.
‘Part of the message for me includes the unintended consequences of technology and the futility of considering every use case,’ Reben told technology blog Engadget.
Google likely never entertained the possibility that its Assistant would be used to shoot a weapon.
Artist Alexander Reben said building the Google Home-triggered weapon was ‘easy’ and was possible using only a few spare parts he found in his apartment
Reben uses the voice command ‘Ok Google, activate gun’ to remotely pull the air pistol trigger and fire into the apple
However, Reben was able to get the AI assistant to pull the trigger with parts from around his studio.
In this scenario, it is clearly Reben who issues the command, however, the artist, who is represented by the Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles, California, has raised questions around responsibility.
In a world where machine learning has allowed smart assistants to increasingly anticipate our needs, it’s not a stretch to imagine a day in the near future when a virtual assistant would proactively pull the trigger in anticipation of a request to do so from its owner.
Who is responsible then?
The roboticist and artist, who is represented by the Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles, hopes the video will spark a debate about the implications of AI and the ‘unintended consequences of technology’
The video has sparked a reaction online, with some terrified by the footage, and others impossibly underwhelmed.
One YouTube viewer commented: ‘Big whoop. Computers have been shooting simulated guns for years, and stalking players and making intelligent decisions, even, in thousands of video games.
‘That AI that has been pulling in-game triggers all this time could easily have its output redirected to the real world, especially to do something as trivial as follow a command, like pulling a trigger or turning on a light.’
But another comment describes the video as proof that it is ‘the end of the world as we know it.’
HOW IS GOOGLE ASSISTANT GETTING SMARTER?
At the search giant’s annual I/O developer conference, CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled a new technology called ‘Duplex’ that enables its Google Assistant to make phone calls in real-time with actual humans.
It can book a hair appointment and reserve a table for you at your favorite restaurant, among other things.
That’s on top of a slew of other tools that Google says can make it easier than ever for you to interact with your smart devices.
Duplex, which Pichai says the firm has been working on ‘for many years’, will be rolling out to a limited number of users for now.
Pichai showed off the new technology at the I/O conference, which kicked off on Tuesday in Mountain View, California and runs through Thursday.
In a demo, Google Assistant dials up a local hair salon to schedule an appointment.
First, a user asks Google Assistant to make them a hair appointment, which prompts Assistant to make the phone call.
It sounds like any other women talking, but one half of the conversation is being held by Google’s AI-infused digital assistant.
Google Assistant is able to work out a time and date for the appointment, even when the salon employee says there are no appointments available at the time the Assistant originally suggested.
Assistant then sends a notification to the user to let them know that an appointment has been scheduled.
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