Here's an easy thing you can do right now to improve your digital security hygiene. Pull out your iPhone, open Settings, go into the Siri settings, and turn off Access When Locked. Do it on your iPad while you're at it. Go ahead and do it for your family and friends, too, at holiday functions when you need to deflect personal questions. In the battle of the smart assistants, every tech giant hopes to hook you on its voice-activated helper.
Sure, you could choose a smart speaker based on sound or price. The go-to gadget gift of the season is available from Amazon, Apple and Google with better acoustics, new touch screens and deep holiday discounts. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant also want to adjust the thermostat, fill your picture frame or even microwave your popcorn. Each artificial intelligence assistant has its own ways of running a home. You're choosing which tribe is yours.
If you've so far withstood the temptation to install a smart speaker in your home, worried about the potential privacy pitfalls and a bit embarrassed about the notion of chatting aimlessly to an inanimate object, brace yourselves. This Christmas, the world's biggest tech giants, including Amazon, Google and Facebook, are making another bid for your living room, announcing a range of new devices that resemble tablets you can talk to. Facebook's is called Portal, Google's the Home Hub, and Amazon has unveiled the second version of its Echo Show. You can still speak to the digital assistants embedded in these devices, but their screens enable hands-free video calling (apart from the Google one), can act as a control pad for various smart devices you may have around your home, such as thermostats or security cameras and (this feature is on heavy rotation in all the promotional material) you can use them to prompt you through a recipe without resorting to smearing your buttery fingers over your phone or laptop. But before you make the leap and send off that letter to the north pole, you may want to ask a few questions.
Spotify reached 83 million subscribers. Spotify is giving a Google Home Mini speaker to family plan subscribers for a song – free. The music streaming service said Wednesday it would give master account owners of Premium for Family plans a free speaker that uses the artificial intelligence-infused, voice-driven Google Assistant. Spotify Premium for Family subscribers can have personalized Spotify accounts for up to six family members for $14.99 a month. You can already ask Google Home devices to play music on Spotify, but this deal aims to increase the reach of both the music service and the voice-friendly speakers.
This installment of Research for Practice features a curated selection from Alex Ratner and Chris Ré, who provide an overview of recent developments in Knowledge Base Construction (KBC). While knowledge bases have a long history dating to the expert systems of the 1970s, recent advances in machine learning have led to a knowledge base renaissance, with knowledge bases now powering major product functionality including Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Wolfram Alpha. Ratner and Re's selections highlight key considerations in the modern KBC process, from interfaces that extract knowledge from domain experts to algorithms and representations that transfer knowledge across tasks.
Virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri employ conversational experiences and language-understanding technologies to help users accomplish a range of tasks, from reminder creation to home automation. Voice is the primary means of engagement, and voice-activated assistants are growing in popularity; estimates as of June 2017 put the number of monthly active users of voice-based assistant devices in the U.S. at 36 million.a Many are "headless" devices that lack displays. Smart speakers (such as Amazon Echo and Google Home) are among the most popular devices in this category. Speakers are tethered to one location, but there are other settings where voice-activated assistants can be helpful, including automobiles (such as for suggesting convenient locations to help with pending tasks5) and personal audio (such as for providing private notifications and suggestions18).
When Whitney Bailey bought an Amazon Echo, she wanted to use the hands-free calling feature in case she fell and couldn't reach her phone. She hoped that it would offer her family some peace of mind and help make life a little easier. In some ways, she says, it does. But because she has cerebral palsy, her voice is strained when she talks, and she struggles to get Alexa to understand her. To make matters worse, having to repeat commands strains her voice even more.
Smart displays are the new smart speakers. A day after Facebook revealed Portal, a WiFi-connected video-chatting device for your home, Google has announced Home Hub, a new 7-inch smart screen that acts as a voice-controlled conduit for the Google Assistant. It's Google's first smart home gadget that's comprised largely of a touchscreen display, after having launched three different display-free smart speakers over the past couple years. The Home Hub is also part of Google's larger strategy to make its virtual assistant infinitely more useful, and also, to get its tech into every facet of your life that it can. Both Google and Facebook's connected displays are coming on the heels of Amazon's second-generation Echo Show, another smart display that's equipped with Alexa and displays snippets of information.
Facebook wants to be invited into your living room. The company has revealed details about its Amazon Echo competitor, a voice-controlled, webcam-equipped smart screen named Portal. Arriving in the US in November, Facebook Portal is a $199 (£152) 10-inch screen, with two speakers and a high-quality webcam attached, which the company hopes users will put in their living rooms and kitchens and use to launch video chats with friends and loved ones. The device, which also comes in a larger model, Portal, for $349, can play music from Spotify, videos from Facebook Watch, and act as a photo frame when not in use. It is controlled using voice commands, although Facebook has eschewed the personal approach of competitors such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa in favour of a more disembodied presence: users initiate instructions with: "Hey Portal."
Google looks to make a big splash at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, touting the Google Assistant. Apple TV has Siri, Amazon's Fire TV has Alexa, and now, Roku has joined forces with the Google Assistant to bring an established voice to its popular streaming players and branded TVs. Roku, the No. 1 streaming player, had offered its own voice search, but Google's Assistant, generally accessed via Google Home speakers, is more widely used by the public. Roku, in announcing new products for the fall Monday, didn't specify a time frame for the change, only saying it would be "soon," and for most existing devices. Additionally, the Roku TVs will have more functionality with Google, allowing viewers to say "Hey, Google," to turn their TV on and off, turn up the volume, mute, switch inputs and change channels, but only if the set is connected to an antenna.