Voice Assistant ‘Kimi’ Becomes a Murder Witness in Upcoming HBO Max Film

A smart speaker voice assistant named ‘Kimi’ stars as a murder witness in an eponymous film that HBO Max is set to debut exclusively on Feb. 10. Kimi complicates the life of agoraphobic reviewer Angela Childs, played by Zoë Kravitz, who must then try to get her disbelieving employers to take it seriously before it’s too late.

Witness Voice Assistant

As seen in the trailer above, Kimi is not dissimilar to Alexa or Google Assistant; the company is even in Seattle, like Amazon. The difference is that it apparently is always listening and recording and that many of those audio records get reviewed by humans. That’s where Kravitz must figure out if the voice stream is of a murder and how to get authorities to listen. Director Steven Soderbergh and “Jurassic Park” scriptwriter David Koepp make the smart speaker and voice assistant the hub of the film. Can it be trusted? Should it be used to check if someone has committed a murder, or does that worsen the privacy invasion problem?

“The devices pick up lots of things. Just mark this ‘degraded audio’ and delete it,” Kravitz’s boss explains.

“I am not capable, and you know it. I think a woman might need help,” she responds. “How do I find out who she is?”

I’m Here

“Kimi” may be a first for cinema or TV in how the voice assistant is portrayed and used in the story. Voice assistants have been the villain, as Olivia Colman-voice PAL in Netflix’s “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” was a source of interpersonal drama and comedy as with the Muppets. A realistic kind of voice AI as a plot tool in a paranoid thriller is new. And the trailer demonstrates how connected and simultaneously isolated the tech can make people feel. The tension of the running, the masks, the computer screens filled with data all add to that anxiety, which seems to want to combine claustrophobia and agoraphobia. For the real world of voice AI, it’s a good reminder of just how important things like emotion and sonic style are to make the tech trustworthy. Even the earliest versions of Alexa or Siri had more warmth than Kimi, whose place in the pantheon of fictional voice assistants will be tested on Feb. 10. Or, as the AI puts it in a dead monotone when someone says its name, “I’m here.”


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