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.”
Washington University in St. Louis: ‘Surfing attack’ hacks Siri, Google with ultrasonic waves. “Attacks on cell phones aren’t new, and researchers have previously shown that ultrasonic waves can be used to deliver a single command through the air. However, new research from Washington University in St. Louis expands the scope of vulnerability that ultrasonic waves pose to cellphone security. These waves, the researchers found, can propagate through many solid surfaces to activate voice recognition systems and — with the addition of some cheap hardware — the person initiating the attack can also hear the phone’s response.”
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.”
Analytics India: Top Chatbots, Assistants & Facial Recognition Tools Launched In 2019. “Chatbots have emerged as the preferred interface as more and more searches are shifting from text to voice. While globally, banking bots have moved beyond answering transactional queries to full-service mode, the Indian BFSI sector bound by regulatory norms is still in an evolving stage. They are now moving to full-fledged virtual assistant mode, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
The Next Web: 2020 will mark the death of the chatbot as we know it. “According to recent research, only 9 percent of customers felt that they would be best served by a chatbot for serious enquiries, whereas the figures for a voice call were in excess of 80 percent. But with 80 percent of contact centers wanting to adopt chatbot technology by 2020, what is does this industry know that we don’t? Well, they are seeing the bright and not-so-distant future of this technology, and it doesn’t look like a thing like your average chatbot.”
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.
Lifehacker: Add Speech-to-Text to Any Website With This Extension. “Voice In is a Chrome extension that adds speech-to-text to most any website. That means you can do things like respond to Slack messages or send emails using your voice rather than typing all the words out.”
Hackaday: Almond: Open Personal Assistant From Stanford. “The current state of virtual personal assistants — Alexa, Cortana, Google, and Siri — leaves something to be desired. The speech recognition is mostly pretty good. However, customization options are very limited. Beyond that, many people are worried about the privacy of their data when using one of these assistants. Stanford Open Virtual Assistant Lab has rolled out Almond, which is open and is reported to have better privacy features.”
Mozilla Blog: Mozilla and BMZ Announce Cooperation to Open Up Voice Technology for African Languages. “Today, Mozilla and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) have announced to join forces in the collection of open speech data in local languages, as well as the development of local innovation ecosystems for voice-enabled products and technologies. The initiative builds on the pilot project, which our Open Innovation team and the Machine Learning Group started together with the organization ‘Digital Umuganda’ earlier this year. The Rwandan start-up collects language data in Kinyarwanda, an African language spoken by over 12 million people. Further languages in Africa and Asia are going to be added.”
TechCrunch: Cortana wants to be your personal executive assistant and read your emails to you, too. “Only a few years ago, Microsoft hoped that Cortana could become a viable competitor to the Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri . Over time, as Cortana failed to make a dent in the marketplace (do you ever remember that Cortana is built into your Windows 10 machine?), the company’s ambitions shrunk a bit. Today, Microsoft wants Cortana to be your personal productivity assistant — and to be fair, given the overall Microsoft ecosystem, Cortana may be better suited to that than to tell you about the weather.”
Search Engine Journal: Study Finds Virtual Assistants Are Getting Worse at Answering Questions Correctly . “A new study suggests the performance of virtual assistants, like Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri, may have plateaued. Perficient Digital released its annual evaluation of virtual assistants. Perhaps the most interesting finding is that none of the top virtual assistants are improving when it comes to answering questions accurately.”
Wired: How to Keep Your Smart Assistant Voice Recordings Private. “Even if Siri isn’t your smart assistant of choice, it’s still a good time to take stock of how you have things set up on whatever platform you use. Each service has its own mix of options and controls. Here’s how to take the human element out of Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana. Once that’s done, tell a friend to do the same.”
The Guardian: BBC to launch Alexa rival that will grasp regional accents. “The BBC is preparing to launch a rival to Amazon’s Alexa called Beeb, with a pledge that it will understand British accents. The voice assistant, which has been created by an in-house BBC team, will be launched next year, with a focus on enabling people to find their favourite programmes and interact with online services.”
Economic Times: No please, no thank you: Are Siri, Alexa making humans less polite?. “For the study, the researchers asked 274 people if the way they talk to digital assistants is making them less polite. After surveying and observing those people, they found that artificially-intelligent digital assistants are not making adult humans ruder to other people.” Let me raise my hand and out myself as one of those people who says “thank you” when using Siri.
Search Engine Journal: 33% of People Are Now Using Voice Assistants Regularly . “It’s estimated that 111.8 million people in the US will use a voice assistant at least monthly this year. That represents 39.4% of US internet users and 33.8% of the overall population.”