Over the years, many have come to view Clippy as one of Microsoft’s most hated projects. It was the company’s first digital assistant, and from what we’ve come to understand, things could have been much different if Microsoft had listened to focus groups.
There’s a documentary out right now called Code: Debugging the Gender Gap, and it proves why Clippy managed to make its way to Windows XP computers. Apparently, males liked the idea of having this disastrous virtual assistant popping up whenever it felt like.
The female focus group thought the characters looked too male, but the males thought it looked just fine, this according to Roz Ho, a former Microsoft executive.
“Most of the women thought the characters were too male and that they were leering at them. So we’re sitting in a conference room. There’s me and, I think, like, 11 or 12 guys, and we’re going through the results, and they said, ‘I don’t see it. I just don’t know what they’re talking about.’ And I said, ‘Guys, guys, look, I’m a woman, and I’m going to tell you, these animated characters are male-looking.’”
In the end, the creators ignored what the women had to say and moved along with their plans bring Clippy to life as it was designed without any form of changes. In the end, it proved the decision was a bad idea, one that went on to hurt the company, but not in a terrible way.
Although, we should point out that the design of Clippy was not the only problem, it wasn’t even the main problem with Microsoft’s first digital assistant. Still, this gender problem is still an issue today with the likes of Siri and Cortana.
According to critics, these digital assistants sound too much like a woman and comes off too much as real human being. For now, only Google Now is still robotic, but if what Microsoft and Apple is doing to humanize their respective digital assistants becomes the standard, then by all means Google might change its tune before long.
Source: The Atlantic.