LAS VEGAS--Complexity is the enemy of security, but prompt patching is its strongest ally. Security professionals have made those points for years, but two presentations at the Black Hat USA conference here provided fresh arguments for them--and signs companies are getting snappier at fixing vulnerabilities. What that means for you: When your computer, phone or tablet says it has an update available, install it. Don't wait to benefit from the tighter focus of an Apple, Google or Microsoft on security issues. Support for that came in one Black Hat briefing covering a "vuln" in Apple's device-management system that lets organizations configure Macs from afar.
Smart speakers are taking over British homes. A recent UK Gov survey found the number had doubled in three months, with around 10% of Brits owning one – and that 75% of these were Amazon Echo devices. The overwhelming majority are used for basic tasks like playing music and answering general knowledge questions – but with the right tips, tricks, skills and accessories you can get the Echo's digital assistant Alexa to do just about anything… Privacy please You can always mute the mics on an Echo device to stop it listening, but if you're concerned you've been over-sharing, deleting your recordings and query history is the next step. Doing so is easy: you can select individual recordings in the Alexa app, or take the nuclear option and delete your daily, weekly, monthly or entire history through the Alexa privacy settings on the Amazon website. If you have multiple Alexa devices you can use them as an intercom in your home.
Voice-enabled smart devices is set to be the new game changer in consumers' lives.Andria Cheng Amazon has made Alexa practically a household name as the voice-assistant-enabled Fire TV stick and Echo devices rank among its best sellers and gives the online giant a dominant lead in the growing smart speaker market. But you'd be wrong to think that lead came just from those big discounts Amazon gave on the likes of Prime Day. On the campus of New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark on Tuesday, 2,500 developers, marketers, executives and other attendees from Panasonic and Lego to Capital One and Johnson & Johnson gathered for the three-day inaugural Voice Summit. While Amazon rivals like Microsoft and Google were also among attendees, the Seattle giant's presence was not to be missed: it's the event's largest sponsor among dozens. At the conference, which ends Thursday, attendees could hang out with Amazon Alexa staff and learn to code and ask questions, besides listening to various Amazon executives talking about the direction of voice and learning about Alexa initiatives across industries from retail and education to finance and healthcare.
The tech giants are racing to get digital assistants into our homes - the Amazon Echo Dot currently has a 40% discount during Amazon Prime Day - but debate rages over whether they are suitable for children. There have certainly been teething problems. Toy giant Mattel abandoned its "AI babysitter", Aristotle, last year following privacy concerns. And music streaming service Spotify is currently testing a way of filtering out songs with explicit lyrics following complaints from parents that family-friendly versions of tracks did not play by default when requested on smart speakers. Amazon Echo meanwhile added a feature to encourage children to be more polite to it following concerns that the abrupt way in which people talk to it was teaching children to be rude.
Siri, Alexa and Cortana all started out as female. Now a group of marketing executives, tech experts and academics are trying to make virtual assistants more egalitarian. Siri, Alexa and Cortana all started out as female. Now a group of marketing executives, tech experts and academics are trying to make virtual assistants more egalitarian. Have you ever noticed something most virtual assistants have in common?
Amazon has a new version of Alexa for hotels. Voice assistants such as Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Siri, Alphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG)(NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google Assistant and Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) Alexa have integrated themselves into our digital lives. Almost half of American adults used voice assistants last year, according to Pew Research. Earlier this year, PwC reported that U.S. internet users who spoke to their devices interacted with smartphones most frequently. However, users are also talking to their tablets, PCs and smart speakers.
Google devices and apps have experienced serious outages that lasted for more than 12 hours and affected millions of users. The issue affected Google Home and Google Home Mini – speakers that respond to voice commands – as well as Chromecast – a device that plugs into a television and allows people to watch video content. Users were angry at both the length of the outage and the lack of information from Google about it, once it had been identified. Google has not given a reason why these devices went down, only apologising for the service problems and identifying a fix for the issues. The bug meant that when some Google Home owners asked a question of their speaker, it responded: "There was a glitch, try again in a few seconds."
Big banks and financial companies have started to offer banking through virtual assistants -- Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, and Google's Assistant -- in a way that will allow customers to check their balances, pay bills and, in the near future, send money just with their voice. And with the rapid adoption of Zelle, a bank-to-bank transfer system, it soon could be possible to send money to friends or family instantly with voice commands. But the potential to do such sensitive tasks through a smart speaker raises security concerns. Virtual assistants and smart speakers are still relatively new technologies, and potentially susceptible to being exploited by cyber criminals. Regional banking giant U.S. Bank is the first bank to be on all three services -- Alexa, Siri and Assistant.
A Portland woman recently told a local news outlet that her Amazon Echo device had gone rogue, sending a recording of a private conversation to a random person in her contact list. On Thursday, two senators tasked with investigating consumer privacy sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding answers. In the letter, Republican senator Jeff Flake and Democratic senator Chris Coons, who serve respectively as chairman and ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, ask Bezos to explain how exactly the Amazon Echo device listens to and stores users' voices. The senators also seek answers about what the company is doing to protect users from having that sensitive information misused. The letter, which was reviewed by WIRED, comes in the midst of what Flake calls a "post-Facebook" world, referring to the data privacy scandal in which Facebook says the data of as many as 87 million Americans may have been misappropriated by a political consulting firm called Cambridge Analytica.
Google is planning to bring support for more languages to its Google Assistant AI, so that its Google Home speaker could appeal to more consumers. Digitimes Research reported late last week that Google is planning to push sales of its Google Home speakers to more markets this 2018. With this in mind, the search engine giant is aiming to bring support for up to 30 languages to its voice assistant. Amazon's Alexa only supports three languages at present. To take advantage of the situation, Google wants to enable Google Assistant to support up to 30 languages with the use of its deep research in multi-language and semantics.