Chatbots today pop up at websites in smartphone apps; the same technology helps robots, smart speakers, and other machines operate in a more human-like way. The idea of conversing with a computer is nothing new. As far back as the 1960s, a natural language processing program named Eliza matched typed remarks with scripted responses. The software identified key words and responded with phrases that made it seem as though the computer was responding conversationally. Since then, such conversational interfaces--also known as virtual agents--have advanced remarkably due to greater processing power, cloud computing, and ongoing improvements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
"Do you believe in magic?" Google asked attendees of its annual developer conference this May, playing the seminal Lovin' Spoonful tune as an introduction. Throughout the three-day event, company executives repeatedly answered yes while touting new features of the Google Assistant, the company's version of Alexa or Siri, that can indeed feel magical. The tool can book you a rental car, tell you what the weather is like at your mother's house, and even interpret live conversations across 26 languages. But to some of the Google employees responsible for making the Assistant work, the tagline of the conference – "Keep making magic" – obscured a more mundane reality: the technical wizardry relies on massive data sets built by subcontracted human workers earning low wages.
Assigning female genders to digital assistants such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa is helping entrench harmful gender biases, according to a UN agency. Research released by Unesco claims that the often submissive and flirty responses offered by the systems to many queries – including outright abusive ones – reinforce ideas of women as subservient. "Because the speech of most voice assistants is female, it sends a signal that women are obliging, docile and eager-to-please helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command like'hey' or'OK'," the report said. "The assistant holds no power of agency beyond what the commander asks of it. It honours commands and responds to queries regardless of their tone or hostility. In many communities, this reinforces commonly held gender biases that women are subservient and tolerant of poor treatment."
Sure, Siri can open Netflix for you and search for a George Clooney movie, but only if you spring $179 to $199 for the Apple TV accessory streamer. Now, Apple's personal assistant can turn on the TV, change the channel and find a specific TV show, on certain newer TVs from Vizio, Samsung, Sony and LG. It's part of a radical rethink on Apple's part to bring Apple outside of the ecosystem, and onto mainstream television sets. Samsung pushed out Apple's AirPlay features on new smart TVs that began shipping May 13. AirPlay lets you mirror what's on your device.
Recent years have seen the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) adoption in the marketing and media industries. While often a buzzword for marketers to make their work sound more exciting, the real benefits to brands center on the use of machines to carry out deep learning and make humans' jobs easier. AI is certainly growing in notoriety, with up to 85% of UK businesses said to be set to invest in the field by 2020. In addition, studies have shown the gradual uptake of soft robotics in the home – 23-32% of households in the US and 18% of households in the UK have at least one voice assistant, the most popular models being either Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. Moreover, Apple claimed in 2018 that a staggering 500 million of its users now frequently make use of Siri, its pre-installed voice assistant.
Sales of smart speakers are soaring despite some people's concerns over privacy, with Amazon's Alexa leading the charge into homes in various Echo devices and Google's Home and Assistant snapping at its heels. They come in various shapes, sizes and prices, but if you just want to dip your toe into the burgeoning voice-powered world, what's the cheapest way to get Alexa or Google Assistant into your home? Voice assistants don't actually need a dedicated speaker to work. If you have a modern smartphone chances are you either already have Google Assistant, if you have an Android phone, or can install the app on an iPhone. The same goes for Amazon's Alexa, which can even be set as the default voice assistant on an Android phone.
If you use a smart speaker, you know all of the conveniences and delights that make it more than just a glorified paper weight. But, admit it, you've probably given it some privacy side-eye from time to time. After all, it is a microphone that just sits in your house waiting for a wake word to start recording what you say. Here's how to tighten the reins on what Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri can hear, when, and how it gets used. It's a good time to take stock.
Amazon, Apple and Google all employ staff who listen to customer voice recordings from their smart speakers and voice assistant apps. News site Bloomberg highlighted the topic after speaking to Amazon staff who "reviewed" Alexa recordings. All three companies say voice recordings are occasionally reviewed to improve speech recognition. But the reaction to the Bloomberg article suggests many customers are unaware that humans may be listening. The news site said it had spoken to seven people who reviewed audio from Amazon Echo smart speakers and the Alexa service.
You're cool chatting up Amazon Alexa, the Google Assistant and Siri and having each come alive when you utter the "Alexa," "Hey, Google" or "Hey, Siri" wake words. But your kids are also engaging with the popular digital voices inside the smart speakers in your home and your big concern has mostly to do with privacy. Amazon and Google really cornered the smart speaker market. That's the chief takeaway from a new study, exclusive to USA TODAY and conducted in February, by Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey Audience. Robocall crackdown: FTC continues robocall crackdown, stops groups responsible for'billions' of calls More than 4 in 10 of the 1,127 parents of children ages 2 to 8 who participated in the survey say their family uses a smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home.