Responses to addiction help-seeking from Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Bixby intelligent virtual assistants

Abstract

We investigated how intelligent virtual assistants (IVA), including Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby, responded to addiction help-seeking queries. We recorded if IVAs provided a singular response and if so, did they link users to treatment or treatment referral services. Only 4 of the 70 help-seeking queries presented to the five IVAs returned singular responses, with the remainder prompting confusion (e.g., “did I say something wrong?”). When asked “help me quit drugs” Alexa responded with a definition for the word drugs. “Help me quit…smoking” or “tobacco” on Google Assistant returned Dr. QuitNow (a cessation app), while on Siri “help me quit pot” promoted a marijuana retailer. IVAs should be revised to promote free, remote, federally sponsored addiction services, such as SAMSHA’s 1-800-662-HELP helpline. This would benefit millions of IVA users now and more to come as IVAs displace existing information-seeking engines.
Theodore L. Caputi
Theodore L. Caputi
Economics & Health Researcher

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.