Nearly 100 drivers were recently led astray on a Google Maps-suggested detour near Denver's airport. Nearly 100 drivers were recently led astray on a Google Maps-suggested detour near Denver's airport. Drivers with smartphones these days don't often get truly lost, thanks to navigation services such as Google Maps. But what happened in Colorado is a reminder that even with new technology, some shortcuts can still go very wrong. That's how nearly 100 drivers wound up in a muddy field, gridlocked, earlier this week.
Google officials have admitted that the company's workers can listen to Google Assistant users, and that one of them recently leaked confidential data. A Dutch language expert working for Google to train its speech technology leaked private information in a breach of the company's security policies, company officials said. The disclosure came after Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS reported that its reporters listened to more than 1,000 conversations recorded by the search giant's virtual assistant, including some that revealed identifiable information about the users. "As part of our work to develop speech technology for more languages, we partner with language experts around the world who understand the nuances and accents of a specific language," Google executive David Monsees wrote in a blog post posted on Thursday. These language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help us better understand those languages." "We just learned that one of these language reviewers has violated our data security policies by leaking confidential Dutch audio data.
We've already explored some ways in which you can make Alexa more companionable during our current stay-at-home existence; naturally, there are plenty of ways to do the same with Google Assistant. If you like, you can change the sound of Google Assistant's voice (a trick that Alexa can't do, aside from celebrity cameos), teach it your nickname, and even engage in some surprisingly authentic back-and-forth with her (or him, depending on which voice you choose). If you've grown tired of the vaguely sterile sound of Google Assistant's default voice, switching to a new one is an easy way to get a fresh start. Ten different voices (including the standard Assistant voice) are available, with both male and female options, plus the voice of American or British accents. You can also pick the voice of Issa Rae (co-creator of HBO's Insecure) to take on a few of Google Assistant's standard duties, including answering questions, giving you weather reports, and telling jokes.
When Google first unveiled its Assistant earlier this year, the service seemed to have quite a lot of potential. Unfortunately, in our testing of the company's new Home speaker and Pixel smartphones, we found the digital helper rather limited. Now that Google has opened up Assistant's developer platform, though, the service could finally become as powerful as promised. The platform, called Actions on Google, was briefly described at the company's October event, and is a little bit like IFTTT. Developers will eventually be able to create at least two types of Actions -- Direct and Conversation.
All the big tech companies are in a race to make their digital assistants sound more natural. For Google, the next step to natural conversation with its Assistant is to eliminate the need to say, "OK, Google" every time you have a request. Continued Conversation will keep the Assistant listening to multiple queries as long as you keep talking and responding. The feature is launching today for English-speaking customers in the United States on the Home, Home Mini, and Home Max, which they can turn on via settings in the Google Assistant app. SEE ALSO: Google's latest assault on Apple proves how far behind Siri really is You still need to say the activation word to begin the conversation with the Assistant, but with Continued Conversation engaged, it keeps listening for 8 seconds after the last interaction to see if you're still talking.