Amazon Alexa, Siri, Google Home or Cortana. Smart assistants are everywhere. They are useful, convenient, like a butler who never leaves the room. But wait, is it? Imagine a person sitting on your kitchen counter, waiting for orders. Of course, the fact that you can ask everything, hands-free, is very helpful. But that person stays there also when you don’t have any tasks for him or he and can listen to everything you talk about in your home. Would you like to have that person in your house? Would we question the concept of smart home devices if Alexa was a real person? That’s the question Los Angeles-based artist Lauren McCarthy asks with her project LAUREN.

As her website explains: "LAUREN is a human intelligent smart home. Lauren will visit your home, deploy a series of smart devices, and watch over you remotely 24/7. Lauren will control your home for you, attempting to be better than an AI, understanding you as a person. You will be able to interact with her by calling her name, but she will also do things for you without your asking. She will learn faster than an algorithm, adapting to your desires and anticipating your needs".

The project is a performance piece during which the artist embodies the eponymous smart home assistant. LAUREN is part different situations one wouldn't normally share with a stranger. She listened to hour-long conversation between close friends, she was even part of a date. That date was particularly stressful for LAUREN, as she was in charge of setting the mood with the right lighting and music.

Smart home devices are always listening, waiting for that “Okay Google” to start a task. This can be amazingly favorable and even life-saving, in some cases. However, most users do not consider their helpful assistants intruding, or a possible threat to their privacy.

With LAUREN, McCarthy aims to make privacy regarding data and AI much more tangible. Her project lets us question the amount of (intimate) data we actually share with smart devices in our home.

Source: Co. Design

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