The concept of using an animated helper is something that was a persistent part of Microsoft’s strategy, although marketers found that many users did not want this kind of addition to the interface.
In terms of its development, the office assistant software behind Clippy used a series of Bayesian algorithms to determine what a user might need help with.
Each of these dozen characters, moreover, has a distinct and often obtrusive personality; Bob users interact with their PCs by communicating with a psychotic MTV rat, a coffee-drinking lizard, a submissive rabbit, a hostile parrot, and other oddly-behaved creatures.
As a program, Microsoft Bob was a notorious flop, and little-known.
Clippy interrupted you, but Alexa and Siri only show up when you call. “We are just at the beginning of social interface,” Bill Gates told a crowd at the CES trade show in 1995.
They analyze and sort your photos and email in the background. “The whole way you interact with the machine will be different, you’ll be able to talk to the machine, and it will use voice recognition, or so-called natural-language processing, to be able to understand what you do.” This sounded like an absurd thing to say when you consider that he was announcing the technology that would become the world’s most-hated paper clip.In Clippy’s heyday, if you wanted to do something in Word — like, say, add footnotes — you had to know where the “Footnotes” menu item was, and how to navigate the preference window that popped up.But with a digital assistant, you could theoretically just dictate what you wanted — “add footnotes to this document” — and get a result.Instead of using office metaphors for computer functions (folders, files, recycle bin), Bob arranged things in different rooms of a virtual house.Guiding you through the house was a cartoon character that offered help and advice. As one edition of Soft-Letter put it at the time: In fact, virtually all interaction with the program takes place through these “friends of Bob,” who constantly move around the screen, making suggestions, juggling objects, and otherwise displaying symptoms of pseudo-spontaneous behavior.But the underlying tech, like the “Microsoft Actor” file format, was updated and repurposed for a new project.In November of the next year, Microsoft released the latest version of its suite of applications, Office 97.But if you’ve talked to your i Phone or your Amazon speaker or asked Google a question in plain English, you know he was right.Eventually, we got to the point where AI assistants are a viable option for computing.The Assistant feature was meant to function, well, like an assistant: You could ask it to do something, and then it would perform the task … Automated assistants are a black box into which you place a request, and a response comes out the other end.The Big Idea behind Clippy was to move away from the strict, regimented flow of computer tasks.