Ars Technica: Uncovered: 1,000 phrases that incorrectly trigger Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. “As Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and other voice assistants have become fixtures in millions of homes, privacy advocates have grown concerned that their near-constant listening to nearby conversations could pose more risk than benefit to users. New research suggests the privacy threat may be greater than previously thought.”
CNBC: Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant have been updated to express support for Black Lives Matter. “Apple, Amazon and Google recently updated their smart voice assistants. They now explain the Black Lives Matter movement when asked ‘Do black lives matter?’ and also provide updated responses to ‘Do all lives matter?’ “
EurekAlert: Do privacy controls lead to more trust in Alexa? Not necessarily, research finds. “Giving users of smart assistants the option to adjust settings for privacy or content delivery, or both, doesn’t necessarily increase their trust in the platform, according to a team of Penn State researchers. In fact, for some users, it could have an unfavorable effect.”
CNET: Alexa and Google Assistant are developing personalities. “Google Assistant may be the most naturalistic voice assistant yet, but neither it nor Alexa and Siri are close to achieving the sentience you see in movies like Her. They won’t be your friend, your significant other or (if 2001: A Space Odyssey is more your bag) your mortal enemy. But your relationships with them could have further reaching consequences than you think.”
Wirecutter: How I Use Alexa to Dunk on My Kids. “I will stoop as low as it takes to fool and delight them, and Alexa has all the built-in tools I need. Should you want to fight back and own your kids like a boss, you need to check out Alexa Routines—little customizable commands you can create that tell Alexa to say or do pretty much whatever you want.”
Becker’s Hospital Review: Amazon, First Databank partner to let Alexa answer drug-related questions. “Amazon has partnered with First Databank — a database of drug and medical device information — to allow Amazon Alexa users to ask questions about drug information, such as drug interactions and side effects.”
The Next Web: MIT researchers developed a text-based system that tricks Google’s AI. “Now, researchers at Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT, have developed a new system called TextFooler that can trick AI models that use natural language processing (NLP) — like the ones used by Siri and Alexa. This is important to catch spam or respond to offensive language.”
UMass Boston: Hey, Google? Alexa? Am I At Risk for Alzheimer’s?: UMass Boston Professor Part of $1.1M Research Project. “Assistant Professor of Computer Science Xiaohui Liang is leading a four-year $1,179,714 National Institute on Aging (NIA)-funded research project to use Voice Assistant Systems, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, to detect early cognitive impairment. Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in older adults living alone is essential for developing, planning, and ensuring adequate support at home for patients and their families.”
Smashing Magazine: Creating Voice Skills For Google Assistant And Amazon Alexa. “Voice assistants are hopping out of emerging tech and into everyday life. As a front end developer, you already have the skills to build one, so let’s dive into the platforms.” This is a giant technical dive and definitely not for beginners.
New Jersey Department of Transportation: NJDOT Announces Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant features for 511NJ Traveler Information Program . (This link is to a PDF file.) “- New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti today announced that NJDOT is the first department in the country to provide hands-free, real-time, statewide, traffic and traveler information using both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices.”
BetaNews: Amazon is getting free access to NHS medical data. “As fear mounts in the UK at the prospect of the NHS being sold in part or in whole to the US, the government has decided to give Amazon access to National Health Service data for free. The arrangement means that Amazon will be able to access ‘healthcare information, including … symptoms, causes, and definitions’. The tech giant will be able to use the data in conjunction with Alexa to enable users to get medical help and advice via the digital assistant.”
TechCrunch: Amazon launches medication management features for Alexa. “The feature will allow customers to set up their own medication reminders and request voice refills using their prescription information. At launch, these capabilities are only available to customers of Giant Eagle Pharmacy, a regional retailer in the Midwest and East Coast.”
WTHR: The Butterball hotline is back and it even has an Alexa Skill. “It’s a Thanksgiving tradition that has become as familiar and comforting as family and football. It’s the Butterball hotline, and it’s been keeping up with the technological times with advice on social media and even Amazon’s Alexa.”
VentureBeat: Amazon is poorly vetting Alexa’s user-submitted answers. “Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana can answer all sorts of questions that pop into users’ heads, and they’re improving every day. But what happens when a company like Amazon decides to crowdsource answers to fill gaps in its platform’s knowledge? The result can range from amusing and perplexing to concerning.” I really hope nobody is surprised by this.