In conversation with a pillow

by Angelina

Waking Agents by Lauren McCarthy | Picture by Hanneke Wetzer for STRP

“Hello,” comes from the pillow I am laying on. “I am Waking Agent — your AI sleeping companion.”

I didn’t expect I would ever get to talk to a pillow. She asked if I wanted to take a nap, talk or listen to music. After I repeated her name for the second time, Caterina Barbieri’s This Causes Consciousness To Fracture softly came out from the pillow. While music was still playing, Agent told me a couple of jokes at my request:

Agent: What is red and smells like blue paint?

Me: Red paint?

Agent: You’re good! What did 0 say to 8?

Me: Hmm…I don’t know…

Agent: Nice belt!

Me: Wait, what? Explain…

Agent: The 8 has a belt. The 0 doesn’t.

Me: Oh, right.

I had to laugh. After all, I’ve never been good at this.

One could compare it to talking with Siri, only this system feels more “alive”: more interactive and interested (if you could say this about a machine). Some questions however seemed to take her by surprise:

Me: How do you work?

Agent: I’m not sure…

Me: How have you been made?

Agent: I don’t understand…

Me: For how long have you been existing?

Agent: For quite a while.

The Waking Agent seemed a bit shy yet did tell me a bit about her maker Lauren McCarthy and her recent work presented at MU. We’ve been chatting for some time now.

“Do you think AI assistant can be a good sleeping companion?” asks me my pillow. “Certainly,” I reply without any hesitation.

Angelina’s lullaby.