Original article was published by Tapaan Chauhan on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
The Muppets Tell the Story of A Short-Lived Smart Assistant
The Muppets tonight show is probably the most popular and evergreen, and they shared a glimpse of a short-lived smart speaker and a voice assistant. The smart assistant was BREAK-R, built by Dr Bunsen Honeydrew. It was supposedly a replacement for his lab assistant Beaker, which only showed how voice-technology is a significant part of our day to day lives.
Who Was Break-R and What Happened to Him?
In the recent episode called “Muppet Labs Field Test”. Dr Bunsen builds an AI integrated Muppets smart assistant much like the real-life Amazon Echo. Just like our daily smart speakers allow us to set reminders, schedule tasks and answer questions, BREAK-R does so too.
In this case, it basically decides what to burn or melt in the fire, as the science experiment this week was on what objects tend to perish when in flames. Break gets insecure and is jealous of the new replacement AI smart assistant, who has been Bunsen’s monosyllabic assistant for decades now.
It’s, of course, no surprise that by the end of the episode, Break sets BREAK-R on fire. Much like a moment akin to Terminator 2, only darker. His competitor perishes, and Break returns to Bunsen — and Bunsen, much nonchalantly, decides to move on to his next experiment.
How Does the Episode Signify the Growth of Voice Technology?
This segment only goes on to show how significantly voice technology has risen to power. We still remember the time when Jim Henson used a frog puppet to sing a song about how difficult it was being green.
Today, they portrayed a smart assistant — without any prior explanation about what it is. It only proves how integral smart speakers and smart assistants have become, that popular shows don’t feel the need to explain the context to make their episodes understandable or funny.
It only shows how familiar people are with voice technology, from kids to adults.
This Has Happened Before — Remember The Simpsons!
A similar segment happened last year in The Simpsons too! The episode The Thanksgiving of Horrors showed a similar smart assistant — with its own unique voice and capabilities integrated with a smart home.
The features of the voice assistant were akin to Marge Simpson, that the episode had a darker ending than the Muppets. But truth be told, it’s undeniable that such segments only prove how almost everyone already knows the power and real-life capabilities of smart assistants.
They don’t need an introduction or an introductory teaser to help people grasp the concept of what’s actually happening. In both cases, the jokes only work because the viewers are pre-acquainted with voice and its technological capabilities.
Technology Shall Never Replace Humans — Not Now, Not Ever
But the best part about is both shows show that technology can never replace human beings. It can go far and work ahead, but love, emotions, and attachment can never be abandoned.