The so called personal digital assistants (PDAs) from the nineties have become virtual agents, which accompany us in our day to day lives. They “live” on our computers and smartphones and, since 2014, also on smart speakers in our homes.
To get these systems working different technologies are combined. First of all, they have to understand human commands via speech input. They have to understand the words and the meanings. To achieve the latter, they send the recorded commands to servers, receive the result of the processing and should be able to answer in an human-understandable way.
The tasks of digital assistants are diverse. They should entertain their users by telling jokes or playing music, they schedule meetings and organise trips and they do the shopping. Programming interfaces are used to implement third party features, so these systems are also able to dim the lights or interact with other controls of a smart home.
How do these systems work, and how do they integrate into the daily environments of consumers? What sorts of data are processed by whom? Are human communication patterns and communication skills altered by the frequent interaction with machines? Questions like these will be discussed in this short study in cooperation with the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour. The current state of knowledge will be presented and analysed and shall lead to recommendations for politics.