Oracle’s new digital assistant sounds suspiciously like Clippy
Oracle aims to simplify the use of their Cloud applications through digital assistants, though this plan resembles a certain loathed paperclip in function, if not form.
Oracle introduced a variety of improvements across its portfolio of cloud applications on Tuesday as part of the Oracle OpenWorld event in San Francisco, foremost among them is integration with digital assistants. The technology has permeated Oracle ERP Cloud, Oracle SCM Cloud, Oracle HCM Cloud, and Oracle CX Cloud.
Oracle touted Digital Assistants as “a new paradigm for user interaction, where there is a ‘conversation’ between the user and the digital assistant with ‘skills’ to monitor activity and spot and solve problems rapidly and effectively. Oracle Cloud Applications are developing digital assistant skills across a wide variety of use cases,” and that “users can interact with the assistant via a conversational user interface for an improved user experience and heightened business efficiency,” in a press release.
Given that Siri was introduced in 2011, the “new paradigm” description is suspect. The way the integration is intended to work almost sounds reasonable, in parts for ERP Cloud, it can “[reduce] the effort required to submit and review time sheets, track the status of projects and escalate time entry and project management issues.” While in SCM Cloud, it is intended to “help customers simplify root-cause analysis for improved supply chain performance.”
Things start sounding odd in the description for the Oracle HCM Cloud, as the feature “can now suggest next steps and recommendations within the context of employee conversations,” and provides “access to onboarding tasks, goals, and performance evaluations, and the availability of manager self-service actions.”
Cue flashbacks of an animated paperclip saying “It looks like you’re writing a letter. Would you like help?” Microsoft’s assistant concept was frequently in the way, with attempts to hide the animated paperclip and companions usually unsuccessful, reappearing when keywords are typed or after restarting the program.
Fortunately, that experience is optional, according to Oracle. “What we will never do is turn off the screen experience, if users are very in tune with using traditional ways of interacting with software, like screens and everything this is to complement and augment the human’s ability to just make the experience very different,” Juergen Lindner, senior vice president of SaaS product marketing at Oracle, told TechRepublic. “In general, what we’re doing is we’ve built AI skills into the software… the interaction complexity with the system is so high, it takes a lot of the employee time out of the equation that otherwise could be dedicated much more efficiently. When we’re picking those use cases, those are not random, those are typically where we’ve gone through testing or we’ve talked to customers, very profound research as to what types of interaction methodologies would be most valuable.”
Lindner evoked the images of consumer-focused digital assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa, as well as chatbots in Slack. Notably, Clippy was briefly revived for Teams Microsoft’s Slack competitor in March 2019 before being unceremoniously killed later that month.
Before being introduced in Microsoft Office 1997, Clippy first appeared in Microsoft Bob, an alternative GUI released in March 1995 for Windows 3.1. The default assistant, then called “actors,” was Rover, the assistant re-purposed for the file search utility in Windows XP. The Office Assistant concept was deactivated by default in Office XP, with Steven Baker telling ZDNet in 2001 that “Clippy is for the most part inappropriate for people using Office.”