You're driving down the highway and an ad plays over the radio.
Somehow, it triggers the Siri voice-activated assistant on your iPhone and starts an app designed to emit a high-pierced sound. The sound is so loud and obnoxious, you have to pull over to avoid an accident.
In case you're wondering, that scenario is not real--although it's entirely possible.
What is real? Burger King recently introduced an ad where an employee decides to trigger the Google Home speaker by saying "OK Google" and asking about the Whopper burger. You hear a description from Wikipedia, which seems like it's very much an advertisement.
I tried playing the Burger King ad near my Google Home device. It's really annoying, because you can't stop the voicebot from playing unless you press the top of the speaker. Also, it's even more annoying because Google was not consulted, but has come under fire recently for inserting ads in the My Day summary for users that includes a summary of events, the weather...and a new movie. (Google says it was not intended as an ad.)
After running the BK ad a few times, I noticed how the Google Home speaker would sometimes speak in unison with the commercial. The ad is about as low-tech as you can get. (The person in the ad is filmed at a dark counter, and the Home speaker looks like it was filmed with an iPhone.) Google reps, asked about the advertising campaign, did not respond to requests on the record but denied any direct involvement.
The ad doesn't rank up there as an all-time affront to all humanity in terms of advertising and public relations nightmares (a contender for that might be this United Airlines fiasco that shows someone being dragged off of a flight), but it is certainly aggressive, a bit obnoxious, and downright annoying. Shame on you, Burger King!
The ad is also a terrible sign of things to come. In my example of the car above, Siri does run on most makes and models these days using Apple CarPlay, and Apple recently started allowing third-party apps like Uber to work with Siri. Amazon Alexa has so far avoided too much controversy, although some of the so-called "skills" are obviously intended to get you to buy more pizza or order products from Amazon itself without really investigating price and selection.
Here's the worst part. We're starting to depend on voicebots like Siri and the Google Assistant voicebot on the Home speaker. Almost every morning, I ask Google Home for a quick run-down on my meetings. Later, I use Siri in my car to get directions. What we become dependent on quickly becomes a vehicle for marketing. However, as a tech enthusiast, this is not what I had in mind. If it isn't me speaking to the bot, the device should not activate. Ever. For any reason.
Google and others are moving into the connected home market in a big way. Could advertisers tell Google Home to open the front door? How about telling the bot to record my conversations when I play a YouTube video? Could marketers figure out how to insert ads into just about any conversation with a bot?
What needs to happen--and soon--is that Google, Amazon and Apple need to figure out how to use better biometrics to identify my voice. Amazon is working on that, but I've had other commercials (for the products themselves) trigger the voicebots many times.
In the end, none of this made me want to buy a burger. I'm heading to Chipotle instead.