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Alexa's new celebrity wake words 'Hey Samuel,' turns the assistant into Samuel L. Jackson – TechCrunch

#artificialintelligence

Alexa just read me Monday's baseball scores. It was great for two reasons. First, the A's shut out the Mariners 9-0 in the second game of a doubleheader. And second, she did so in Samuel L. Jackson's voice. With Amazon based in Seattle, I assume they're happy I've chosen to focus on the latter fact for the rest of this post.


Google accidentally enables Home smart speakers to listen in to everyday house sounds

The Independent - Tech

Google accidentally enabled a feature for Google Home users which let the smart speaker listen to the sounds of objects in your house. A user on Reddit spotted a notification on his phone from his smart speaker which alerted him to the fact his smoke alarm was going off while he was cooking. Usually, Google Home devices only respond to its active'wake words' – such as "Ok, Google" or "Hey, Google" – but in this instance the speaker was listening out to a passive sound and make "my dumb smoke detectors smart," the Reddit user wrote. Other users reported getting alerts for the sound of glass breaking, popped bubble wrap, an air compressor tank, and other high-pitched noises that sound like alarms. In a statement to Protocol, a Google spokesperson said that the feature was accidentally enabled through a recent software update which has now been reversed.


Google smart speakers secretly updated to listen for more than wake words

Mashable

Google Home smart speakers, the company dryly warns in a note buried deep on a support page, can "incorrectly" record their users even when they haven't first said an activating wake phrase like "hey, Google." It just so happens that, at least for a brief period of time this summer, those microphone-enabled devices were doing exactly that. The company admitted Monday, following a report by Protocol, that it had updated an unspecified number of Google Assistant-enabled devices to respond to auditory cues beyond the user-specified wake phrase. Google told Protocol this was a mistake that was quickly fixed, but did not appear to address the larger privacy concerns that such a mistake signifies. After all, how are users supposed to trust a live microphone in their home if someone can remotely update it to be even more invasive without their knowledge?


Smart speakers could be listening in on government secrets, UK civil servants warned

The Independent - Tech

Civil servants working from home during the coronavirus pandemic have been warned to disable their smart speakers. These devices constantly listen for their trigger word, such as "Alexa", "Hey Google", or "Hey Siri", before listening actively for commands. However, these devices have been found to occasionally activate without the wake word. Last year, an Alexa device even managed to record a private conversation and send it to another user without anyone's knowledge. At the time, Amazon said the reason was a series of statements its voice assistant mistook for commands.


Work-at-home AI surveillance is a move in the wrong direction

#artificialintelligence

While we have all been focused on facial recognition as the poster child for AI ethics, another concerning form of AI has quietly emerged and rapidly advanced during COVID-19: AI-enabled employee surveillance at home. Though we are justifiably worried about being watched while out in public, we are now increasingly being observed in our homes. Surveillance of employees is hardly new. This started in earnest with "scientific management" of workers led by Frederick Taylor near the beginning of the 20th century, with "time and motion" studies to determine the optimal way to perform a job. Through this, business management focused on maximizing control over how people performed work.


A New Gadget Stops Voice Assistants From Snooping on You

WIRED

As the popularity of Amazon Alexa and other voice assistants grows, so too does the number of ways those assistants both do and can intrude on users' privacy. Examples include hacks that use lasers to surreptitiously unlock connected-doors and start cars, malicious assistant apps that eavesdrop and phish passwords, and discussions that are surreptitiously and routinely monitored by provider employees or are subpoenaed for use in criminal trials. Now, researchers have developed a device that may one day allow users to take back their privacy by warning when these devices are mistakenly or intentionally snooping on nearby people. This story originally appeared on Ars Technica, a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, reviews, and more. Ars is owned by WIRED's parent company, Condé Nast.


Amazon Echo vs. Echo Dot--what's the difference?

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

Alexa is the world's most popular smart assistant and the driving force behind Amazon's beloved Echo smart speaker lineup. These voice-controlled, Alexa-enabled smart speakers can be used to manage your smart home, give you the forecasts for the day ahead, and much more. If you're thinking about inviting Alexa into your home via one of Amazon's Echo speakers, you may be wondering which one to buy. We took a look at two of Amazon's most popular smart speakers, the Echo (third-generation) and the Echo Dot (third-generation) to help you decide which of these handy smart speakers is best for you. The Echo Dot (third-generation) is one of the smallest Amazon Echo smart speakers. The most obvious visual difference between the Echo Dot and the Echo is the size.


From wake word to woke word: Siri and Alexa tell you black lives matter, but tech still has a diversity problem

Washington Post - Technology News

Tech giants have struggled for years to convince the public that they are committed to diversifying their own massive workforces, but the demographics have only slowly changed in the past decade. Google's workforce is 54.4 percent white and 3.3 percent black, according to its 2019 diversity report. Apple's U.S. workforce is 50 percent white and 9 percent black. Amazon's report shows a more diverse makeup -- its U.S. workforce is 34.7 percent white and 26.5 percent black -- though its statistics include low-paying warehouse jobs as well as more lucrative white collar positions.


Windows 10 May 2020 Update review: Microsoft boosts Linux and Your Phone, but Cortana slips hard

PCWorld

Update, 05/27/2020: Microsoft launched the May 2020 update on May 27, through manual download first, or you can just wait for Microsoft to push it to your PC. Our review of Microsoft's Windows 10 20H1 update--also known as version 2004, or the Windows 10 May 2020 Update--shows an OS focused primarily on building out existing features, rather than launching new ones. Some scaffolding is still apparent in tweaks to Your Phone, and especially Cortana. Microsoft has further polished Task Manager, Settings, and Game Bar, however, and isn't afraid to serve niche audiences with upgrades to the Windows Subsystem for Linux and the related Terminal app. As in the past, we've based our review on the Insider builds of the Windows 10 May 2020 Update, beginning with the major features and working through to its minor additions.


Alexa wishlist: Six features we'd like to see added to Alexa's core capabilities

ZDNet

It started with just one. Soon, there was a second in the bedroom. Within a year, they multiplied. We had six standing guard and listening. Five years later, we have a total of 10 Alexas listening to us: One in each of two bedrooms; one in each of two offices; one each in the kitchen, workshop, living room, and back porch.