File this under “Oh, why not,” from Hackaday: Google Assistant, Now Available On Ham Radio. “Depending on who you talk to, Google Assistant is either a tool capable of quickly and clearly answering audio queries in natural langauge, or a noisier and less useful version of Wolfram Alpha. [William Franzin] decided it would be particularly cool to make the service available over ham radio – and that’s exactly what he did.” Lots of comments.
Wired: Alexa’s Had a Big Year, Mostly Thanks to Machine Learning. “It’s fair to say that when Amazon introduced the first Echo speaker in the fall of 2014, most people weren’t quite sure what to make of it. In the intervening years, Echo and the broader universe of Alexa-powered devices have transitioned from curiosity to ubiquity. But while you can find Alexa in just about everything—including, yes, a microwave—the real progress Amazon’s voice assistant made in 2018 came less from breadth than from depth.”
Slashgear: Google Assistant was the smartest AI in 2018, but others are catching up. “Loup Ventures has published its annual smart speaker IQ test results, revealing how the four big personal assistant AIs performed when asked 800 questions each. Compared to the previous year, three products saw the biggest gain in IQ points and were able to answer a substantially higher percentage of questions versus 2017. However, Google Assistant still beat them all across the board.”
Digital Trends: Amazon starts crowdsourcing Alexa’s answers. What could go wrong? BESIDES EVERYTHING? “According to Amazon’s DayOne blog, until now, the Alexa division has added the answers to common potential questions to a data bank, merging information from multiple sources…. Alexa Answers will change that, although the program is by invitation only. Starting December 6, 2018, Amazon is sending email invites to certain customers to begin contributing answers for Alexa. The customers will be selected by their history of writing product reviews or engagement with Alexa, The Verge reports.”
Make Tech Easier: Which Is the Best Voice Assistant? Here’s What We Found. “It’s still far too early to declare a winner in the ever-evolving AI assistant market, but we can at least take a look at the top contenders. Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa are currently dominating the market, but Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby are making progress, as is Baidu’s Duer in China.”
Ars Technica: Researchers show Alexa “skill squatting” could hijack voice commands. “The success of Internet of Things devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home have created an opportunity for developers to build voice-activated applications that connect ever deeper—into customers’ homes and personal lives. And—according to research by a team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)—the potential to exploit some of the idiosyncrasies of voice-recognition machine-learning systems for malicious purposes has grown as well.”
TechCrunch: Say ‘Aloha’: A closer look at Facebook’s voice ambitions. “Facebook has been a bit slow to adopt the voice computing revolution. It has no voice assistant, its smart speaker is still in development, and some apps like Instagram aren’t fully equipped for audio communication. But much of that is set to change judging by experiments discovered in Facebook’s code, plus new patent filings.”