How far are we away from Her? – Is this the future of search?

I watched the movie “Her” recently, and was interested by the story which was one of the most interesting takes on a love story I think I have watched in recent memory.  Although the movie was pretty good, and had me really interested in the story, I was slightly frustrated that the movie didn’t really push any boundaries or seem to make too many big predictions on the future.  If anything, I felt it was describing what is very soon to be a reality.

Despite my frustration, the movie did get me thinking, and I started thinking of the possibility that Google and other big tech companies (Microsoft, Apple) potentially see the future of search as Google with a human face, rather than its current text and voice format.

Her – the Movie

If you haven’t seen the movie, the basic plot line is a guy falls in love with his personal assistant who is an artificial intelligence.  The scary thing that struck me at the time was that we are not actually that far away from this as a reality at all.  Infact when I examined and researched some of the advances in recent months, it seems almost all parts of the puzzle are actually in place.  It just needs someone, or some company to put them all together to build a virtual assistant.  Come on Apple, step up.  You know you want to.

Her – the reality?

It got me thinking that we are really not very far away from this reality at all.  Although it seems a bit daft the idea of a guy falling in love with an artificial intelligence, it is not out of the realm of unlikely hood, and similar stories have actually already been reported in the news.  For instance, in 2013 there was a story that did the rounds about Japanese guys preferring to date girls in games rather than their real life counterparts.

Considering the evidence, it seems very likely that we will see some kind of virtual assistant as a software package or search engine assistant appearing in the near future.  A ‘human’ face if you like, to the software operating systems and search engines that we already use on a day to day basis.


1. Siri Started to develop An (Intelligent) Sense of Humour in recent years


Part of winning the personal assistant battle is appearing to have a decent sense of humour.  No one wants to work with this guy anymore because he is just annoying.  No one likes a smart arse little-shit paperclip, as Microsoft eventually realised.

Personifying a brand can be a very dangerous thing to do as this example shows.

2. Basic skill set jobs are rapidly becoming automated by AIs

Some secretarial skills such as booking meetings are now becoming automated. have created a brilliant virtual assistant that can help organise meetings, saving loads of time.  The great thing about Amy is you don’t have to prefix your sentence with “OK Amy! Where is the best meeting room in this building?!”  The AI is intelligent enough to work out what you are saying in natural office email language.  Which is amazing really, when you think about it.

When you realise you can pretty much communicate in your usual manner to Amy the AI, it just seems fairly incredible.



3. The technology for Virtual assistants to look and react more and more like actual humans is actually here alread.

The future!



The present! (click on start)


4. Google rebrand to make voice search the central (but future) part of their search engine

Google’s recent rebranding of their logo was more than just changing the font, it was realigning and repositioning voice search to be a more core search offering and get people more used to using voice search.  Ultimately this is paving the way for Google to be your fun, lovable personal assistant in the future.

Whether or not they will put a human face to their search engine is yet to be seen, but I imagine as the technology and accuracy of voice search rapidly improves, this will be a more and more tempting proposition.  Also features like personality mapping would be pretty much the ultimate personalisation experience.  Which leads us pretty much to the situation in the “Her” movie, where a guy actually falls in love with his AI personal assistant.



5. Windows 10 includes Cortana Voice Search Next to the Windows Icon


Yes, even Microsoft have got in on the cheeky voice action!  With Windows 10 they have repositioned voice search into a key part of the new Windows software under a new personal assistant called Cortana.


When you put these things together, it seems very likely that a company will soon put together an intelligent virtual personal assistant that can help you with everything rather than releasing a new update to their operating system, or updating a search engine.

Personal Assistant – Dream specifications

  1. Like talking to a real human being
  2. Can complete mundane daily tasks and not complain when you give it all your work
  3. Can research and find the answer to any question like Google
  4. Is helpful, courteous and useful and can save you time
  5. Is compatible with your personality


Personal Assistant – Sad reality

  1. Artificial intelligences are often clumsy and sometimes annoying:  e.g. “Have you swiped your Nectar Card”
  2. They are only as good as their programming
  3. Most personal assistants, Google, Siri etc lack a human face or human feel.  Saying things like: “OK, Google; where is the best restaurant in Angel” still seems very unnatural.
  4. Still got bad memories from the Office Paperclip.
  5. No personality mapping available




The problem with voice search is you feel like a bit of an idiot talking to your phone to ask the weather.  But if you were talking to an actual human face, like in the  you might not feel so stupid.  It would essentially be putting a human face to a search engine.  This may seem weird at first, but I imagine after time it could potentially become part of our daily lives in the same way that search engines have worked their way into our lives in recent years.

Published by Chris

Chris is a London SEO Consultant working as an SEO Account Director for Blue 449, part of Publicis Groupe.

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