If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Should children be polite to virtual assistants? And for most parents and child development experts, the answer is simple, too: Yes, of course they should. Nobody wants to hear children rudely barking orders at, or verbally abusing, an adult voice. But teaching kids to say "please" and "thank you" to Alexa and Google Assistant may have unintended consequences and raise other questions that aren't so simple. Millions of parents have suddenly been forced to grapple with this new parental conundrum.
This post originally appeared on the PullString blog. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last twelve months, you've heard about voice assistants. They go by the name of Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri and can give you information about your commute or the weather, turn lights on and off, book flights, and order groceries. A line of questioning we hear a lot from CMOs in North America and Europe is: should they even care about this latest technology trend, does voice deserve its own strategy, does it warrant attention at their level of the organization? We believe there are four strategic reasons why every CMO should start thinking about what voice assistant customer engagement means for their digital transformation strategy.
When Google wowed the tech world with its demo of Duplex -- the tech that allows its digital Assistant make phone calls to perform mundane tasks like booking haircuts or making restaurant reservations -- Microsoft's Cortana chief was impressed, but not worried. "The technologist in me had no choice but to feel impressed," Javier Soltero, Microsoft corporate vice president of Cortana, told me in a far-ranging discussion about voice technology for Mashable's MashTalk podcast. "The idea that a computer can generate a voice with the right processes, right inflection, all of the right things to mimic humans, is amazing to see in practice, but not entirely surprising." But Soltero didn't immediately think, "We need to do something similar with Cortana so we can catch up to what they're doing." In fact, the Google Duplex demo emphasized just how different the two companies' approaches to voice technology are.
Amazon has announced a new program designed to help hotels deploy Alexa's voice-enabled smarts across their properties. Though Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo speakers are growing in popularity across the domestic realm -- helping users control their doors, lights, and search the web using nothing but their voice -- the internet giant has been targeting the hospitality sector for a while already. High-end hotel firm Wynn Resorts has been placing thousands of Amazon Echo speakers in its hotels since last summer, for example. And as of April, Alexa has been able to make phone calls in hotel rooms. Put simply, Amazon recognizes that hotels are a perfect showcase for its automated AI technologies.
Before now, smart-home-as-a-service provider Vivint was happy to sell you a smart speaker--either an Amazon Echo or a Google Home--on top of its other offerings. Today, the company announced that it has partnered with Google to include two Google Home Minis in all its starter packages. Amazon had a long head start with Vivint, a Utah-based company that sells and services custom-installed smart home systems. Customers could use Amazon's Alexa digital assistant and Echo devices with Vivint Smart Home for months and months before they were able to do the same with Google Assistant and Google Home hardware. I know, because there's a Vivint system in my own home.
For years, Sonos has led the market for multi-room audio, beating back a host of competitors and proposed industry standards aimed at knocking it aside. But the company's biggest challenge to date has come from an unlikely cylinder with middling audio that could not only play music, but talk and listen. Amazon's Echo, which is often used to set alarms, itself served as a wakeup call to Sonos. Sonos already had a product competitive with the Echo's size and price in the Play:1. But rather than try to answer even lower points of entry into the Alexa ecosystem such as the puck-like Echo Dot adapter, it made its existing speakers responsive to Alexa and introduced one as an Alexa endpoint, the Sonos One.
Early adopters commonly used smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Assistant as timers, home speakers and news readers. Today, one in six Americans own a smart speaker such as Amazon Echo (aka Alexa) or Google Home, making intelligent speakers the fastest growing consumer technology when compared with virtual reality, augmented reality and wearables. As a parent and a technologist who founded Visionarus, a company that develops advanced access control systems for gated communities based on speech recognition, I'm always looking for ways I can introduce and experience disruptive technology with my child. After doing my due diligence and researching on the most common concerns parents, educators, security and privacy communities have related to this new technology, I experimentally gave my kindergarten-age son a smart speaker for Christmas. Six-plus months later, I believe this experiment positively expanded his knowledge, developed his logical thinking, entertained him, improved his writing and even helped him let go of his fear of the dark.
Voice shopping using smart speakers and smartphone apps is starting to gain traction among consumers, opening up a new "conversational commerce" channel and potentially disrupting the retail sector. Devices such as Amazon's Alexa-powered speakers and Google Home, which use artificial intelligence (AI) to respond to voice commands, are offering new choices to consumers who are looking for more convenient ways to order goods and services. Voice shopping is expected to jump to US$40 billion (S$54 billion) annually in 2022 in the United States, from US$2 billion today, according to a survey this year by OC&C Strategy Consultants. "People are liking the convenience and natural interaction of using voice," said Ms Victoria Petrock of the research firm eMarketer. "Computing in general is moving more toward voice interface because the technology is more affordable, and people are responding well because they don't have to type."
Echo devices misinterpret human commands, and, say, start recording private conversations without permission? Two senators want to know. In a letter dated June 11, Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) The letter was first reported by Wired. The senators, who lead the Judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law, framed the letter around a recent incident involving a family that discovered that their Echo had recorded a private conversation and sent it to a random person in their contacts.
Amazon has agreed to review its labor practices at Foxconn plant in China where its popular Echo Dot smart speakers are assembled. SAN FRANCISCO -- The Chinese plant where Amazon's popular Echo Dot smart speakers are assembled underpaid workers, some of whom worked as many as 14 consecutive days and more than 100 overtime hours per month, according to a U.S.-based labor rights group. Amazon says it knew of problems at the plant and has requested corrective action. The report by China Labor Watch found that the Foxconn plant in Hengyang in China broke multiple Chinese labor laws, underpaying workers and subjecting them to verbal abuse. More than 40% of the staff there were temporary employees, while China only allows 10% of any workforce to be temps.