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.
Walt Disney World recently showed the Associated Press what it takes to put their shows together. It's a shift for a resort that hasn't allowed many peeks behind the curtains of the fantasy it creates. Maybe romantic Disney fairy tales come true after all. Data from the popular global online dating site Plenty of Fish reveals that singles who have expressed an interest in Disney are 3.6 times more likely to leave the app in a relationship compared to singles who more generally list interests in music and movies. That was certainly true for Disney fan Abby Schiller.
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.
On 21 November 2015, James Bates had three friends over to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks play the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Bates, who lived in Bentonville, Arkansas, and his friends drank beer and did vodka shots as a tight football game unfolded. After the Razorbacks lost 51–50, one of the men went home; the others went out to Bates's hot tub and continued to drink. Bates would later say that he went to bed around 1am and that the other two men – one of whom was named Victor Collins – planned to crash at his house for the night. When Bates got up the next morning, he didn't see either of his friends. But when he opened his back door, he saw a body floating face-down in the hot tub. A grim local affair, the death of Victor Collins would never have attracted international attention if it were not for a facet of the investigation that pitted the Bentonville authorities against one of the world's most powerful companies – Amazon. Collins' death triggered a broad debate about privacy in the voice-computing era, a discussion that makes the big tech companies squirm.
For most people who talk to our technology -- whether it's Amazon's Alexa, Apple Siri or the Google Assistant -- the voice that talks back sounds female. Some people do choose to hear a male voice. Now, researchers have unveiled a new gender-neutral option: Q. "One of our big goals with Q was to contribute to a global conversation about gender, and about gender and technology and ethics, and how to be inclusive for people that identify in all sorts of different ways," says Julie Carpenter, an expert in human behavior and emerging technologies who worked on developing Project Q. The voice of Q was developed by a team of researchers, sound designers and linguists in conjunction with the organizers of Copenhagen Pride week, technology leaders in an initiative called Equal AI and others. They first recorded dozens of voices of people -- those who identify as male, female, transgender or nonbinary.
Boot up the options for your digital voice assistant of choice and you're likely to find two options for the gender you prefer interacting with: male or female. The problem is, that binary choice isn't an accurate representation of the complexities of gender. Some folks don't identify as either male or female, and they may want their voice assistant to mirror that identity. But a group of linguists, technologists, and sound designers--led by Copenhagen Pride and Vice's creative agency Virtue--are on a quest to change that with a new, genderless digital voice, made from real voices, called Q. Q isn't going to show up in your smartphone tomorrow, but the idea is to pressure the tech industry into acknowledging that gender isn't necessarily binary, a matter of man or woman, masculine or feminine. The project is confronting a new digital universe fraught with problems.
A series of new Google Assistant ads aired during the 91st annual Oscars Sunday night, reimagining how some classic and recent films would change with Google's AI helper. Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ladybird, Psycho, and Scream all appeared in short ads that played throughout the award show. The ads reconsidered how crucial scenes from each movie would work with Google Assistant saving time or assisting the characters. This isn't the first time Google Assistant has appeared in classic movies; a previous commercial also reimagined Home Alone with an AI-friendly scenario back in December. A collection of the commercials that aired tonight can be seen below.
Apple could be planning to introduce an emojii version of its Siri virtual assistant, according to a new patent application from the tech giant. The patent request, filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, describes an emoji-based avatar for a smart home speaker that can adapt to a user's mood. Though not mentioned by name in the patent, the description of the smart speaker accurately resembles that of the Apple HomePod. Apple's patent application describes a "humanistic avatar, a simplified graphical representation of a digital assistant such as an emoji-based avatar" – essentially a cartoon version of Siri. Depending on what request is made through the smart speaker, the emoji assistant would be able to react appropriately.