Kimi: a tech thriller or a tech horror?

4th May 2022
Paige West

Kimi is a recently released crime thriller from Director Steven Soderbergh. The film centres around a Seattle tech worker during the COVID-19 pandemic who suffers from agoraphobia.

This article originally appeared in the April '22 magazine issue of Electronic Specifier Design – see ES's Magazine Archives for more featured publications.

Whilst reviewing data from her new voice assistant device, she uncovers evidence of a violent crime but is met with resistance when trying to report it. As a result, she must face her biggest fear: the outside world.

Much like Black Mirror, Kimi explores the high-tech world of the near future and leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling of distrust for modern technology. Well, it certainly did for me anyway.

Kimi is the name of the voice assistant device featured in the film and it is extremely comparable to the likes of Alexa and Siri. Kimi’s main USP is people: instead of using algorithms, Kimi learns and adapts via a group of people who listen and fix errors in communication in real-time. Our protagonist is one of these people.

Technology such as this is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. Statista reports that in 2020, 4.2 billion digital voice assistants were being used in devices globally. It is predicted that by 2024 this number will reach 8.4 billion units. Despite voice assistants’ growing popularity, what this film highlighted for me was the apparent mistrust surrounding both the technology and the big conglomerations behind them – as well as the security risks behind Internet-connected devices.

Research from Accenture UK states that 40% of voice assistant users are concerned about who can listen and how their data is used. This was certainly reflected in the main characters’ extreme paranoia and the fact that her job was basically spying on people under the guise of ‘helping’ them. These concerns have no doubt been amplified over the years by the likes of Samsung making headlines when, in 2015, it warned customers against discussing personal information in front of its voice-controlled smart TV, as well as Amazon in 2020 when it was revealed that hackers could access personal information and users’ conversation history on Alexa.

Having said all this, the film showed that there can be a plus side to such data usage as Kimi’s recording did indeed help to solve a murder (spoiler alert). But, in the end scene, the protagonist replaces her device with a bunch of flowers. I’ll let you decide what that symbolises…

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