This is art: Man rigs up Google Assistant to fire a gun

By | 30th May 2018

Google Assistant

  • An artist rigs up a system that enables him to create a “Google Assistant gun,” where his voice command pulls the trigger.
  • The YouTube video he posted of the contraption is his latest art piece.
  • The piece raises questions about the ethics of AI and the potential legal problems it could create.


The age-old question of “What is art?” has boggled the minds of many people throughout the centuries. We find it easy to accept that something like the Mona Lisa is art, but difficult to understand how a porcelain toilet autographed by an artist and presented to a gallery could pass muster.

Most people would agree that art makes you think, and if that’s your definition then have I got an art piece for you: artist Alexander Reben recently released a video of his latest piece, which is him asking Google Assistant to fire a gun. Check it out below:

In the 30-second-long video, Reben says “OK Google, activate gun,” to his Google Home. Rigged up right next to the Home is some sort of air pistol that then fires at an apple. The apple tumbles off its pedestal as we hear Google Assistant in the background say, “OK, turning on the gun.”

The whole thing is pretty unsettling.

Reben tells Engadget that he used Google Assistant to perform the feat, but could have easily used an Amazon Echo or any other virtual assistant. He rigged the gun using spare parts laying around his studio, which included a laundromat change-dispensing solenoid, string, and a lamp control relay.

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“Part of the message for me includes the unintended consequences of technology and the futility of considering every use case,” Reben said. He was quick to point out that his hacked-together piece could have triggered “a back massaging chair or an ice cream maker.” He just happened to pick a gun.

With the prevalence of AI in our world and things like Google Duplex causing some spine-chills with how eerie and creepy virtual assistants can be, Reben’s video surely makes a point: what if his video was a real gun and it was firing at a person? Clearly, Reben would be culpable for pulling the trigger by giving the command, but are there laws on the books ready to defend “death by virtual assistant?”

Google has already promised to develop an ethical roadmap of sorts when it comes to the future of artificial intelligence and its applications. It is also currently under fire from the general public and its own employees for helping the government use AI to power military drones.

Reben is likely trying to say that we should be talking about the ethics of AI sooner rather than later.

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