Yesterday Microsoft announced one of its latest research projects: A floating woman's head named Laura that will live in your monitor and be your "personal assistant." Laura will not annoy you by having a body, a need for worker's compensation, or a wish to do anything but serve you - and she will also monitor your moods and appearance to give you that real-life assistant experience.

According to Ashlee Vance, writing in the New York Times:

More compelling, however, is Laura's ability to make sophisticated decisions about the people in front of her, judging things like their attire, whether they seem impatient, their importance and their preferred times for appointments.

Instead of being a relatively dumb terminal, Laura represents a nuanced attempt to recreate the finer aspects of a relationship that can develop between an executive and an assistant over the course of many years.

"What we're after is common sense about etiquette and what people want," said Eric Horvitz, a researcher at Microsoft who specializes in machine learning.

Apparently there is no option to turn Laura into "Bill" or "Ray." I'm excited that Microsoft has finally figured out a way to create something that is not only more annoying than Clippie, but also genuinely disturbing. I have a feeling the robot revolution will be led by an army of Lauras.

Read more at the New York Times.