The BBC unveiled the UK’s first interactive voice news service on Alexa-enabled devices, featuring flexible bulletins and specialist content.
David Murphy asks if people are morally obligated to inform their guests that their home contains smart devices like HomePod, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. Given the fact that these devices can listen to you, should you post a sign in your house that says, “Warning: This Area Under Surveillance?”
If you’re simply sporting a smart speaker, I think announcing its presence is less of a deal—overkill, really. But if a camera is recording me at any point, and that’s something you can view later, I think it’s the friendly thing to do to let me know before I start gossiping…or worse.
What do you mean by worse??
Charlotte Henry and Dave Hamilton join host Kelly Guimont to talk about the latest web interface from Apple, and voice assistant points of view.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) announced a partnership with Amazon which will see Alexa supply NHS-verified health information.
In a letter to U.S. senators Amazon said it keeps your Alexa voice recordings indefinitely unless you manually delete them.
In the letter to Coons, Amazon noted that for Alexa requests that involve a transaction, like ordering a pizza or hailing a rideshare, Amazon and the skill’s developers can keep a record of that transaction. That means that there’s a record of nearly every purchase you make on Amazon’s Alexa, which can be considered personal information.
A recently updated Apple support page shows that Apple Music for Alexa is now available for Australian customers.
Owners of Toyota’s Camry and Sienna vehicles will be able to add Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa as part of a retrofit.
Toyota says it will be notifying Camry and Sienna owners and “encouraging them to contact their dealer” about the retrofit; the installation will be done at dealerships. We reached out to Toyota to ask if the retrofit costs anything, and a spokesperson for the brand said there “may be a small service charge” and that dealers will be able to provide more information. Toyota doesn’t say how long it will actually take to complete the installation.
Microsoft‘s recent 2019 Voice Report shows that usage of Google Assistant and Siri are tied at 36%, while 41% of survey respondents are concerned about privacy.
Tens of millions of people use smart speakers and their voice software to play games, find music or trawl for trivia. Millions more are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that someone might be listening.
Sometimes, someone is.
The article goes on to explain how Amazon employs thousands of people around the world to listen, transcribe and annotate conversations with Alexa. All in an effort to improve Alexa’s ability to understand human speech. Of course, Amazon has strict policies and the user identities are anonymized. But still… Seriously?
Amazon announced six Alexa HIPAA-compliant skills are coming today. They will be for patients and caregivers.
Now Atrium Health patients in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia can ask Alexa to schedule same-day appointments, while Express Scripts members can check the status of a home delivery prescription and can request Alexa notifications when their prescription orders are shipped. Meanwhile, the Livongo Alexa skill lets people check recent blood sugar readings and monitor their blood sugar levels. Other developers or healthcare companies that are interested in adding skills to Alexa must apply to an invite-only Alexa program to participate.
Nothing will go wrong, right?
The adverts are likely to be as big a talking point from this weekend’s Super Bowl as the football. Techcrunch reported on how Amazon stops those ads waking millions of Alexa’s across the country. The procedure is relatively simple if Amazon is producing the advert itself. If it isn’t, but “the audio of a request matches that of requests from at least two other customers, we identify it as a media event,” the company explained. So, come Super Bowl Sunday there should be no incidents like that South Park one.
With its own ads, the company adds a fingerprint of the audio, which is stored on-device. Given the Echo’s storage limitations, additional fingerprints are stored in the cloud, where the assistant can cross-check things before waking. The system generally works pretty well, though complications can occur in, say, a noisy environment (what Super Bowl party has ever been noisy, though?) in which case a longer clip is required to do its job.
Microsoft no longer sees its Cortana digital assistant as a competitor to the more popular Alexa and Google Home. The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said that it should be further integrated with its rivals’ platforms instead, The Verge reported. Microsoft and Amazon already partnered for some Cortana/Alexa integration, and this is clearly where Microsoft intends to take the product next – more of an app or service across multiple platforms, not hardware to be sold.
CEO Satya Nadella revealed that Microsoft no longer sees Cortana as a competitor to Alexa or Google Assistant. “Cortana needs to be that skill for anybody who’s a Microsoft 365 subscriber,” explains Nadella, referencing Microsoft’s new consumer subscription push. “You should be able to use it on Google Assistant, you should be able to use it on Alexa, just like how you use our apps on Android and iOS so that’s at least how we want to think about where it’ll go.”
Apple’s growing services business, and its increasing openness to having its software on other people’s hardware, is one of the most fascinating stories in tech at the moment. Tech blogger turned venture capitalist M.G. Siegler has written an excellent summary of the situation on Medium. As he says, the future for the company “is going to be… different.”
Incidentally, it was a pod that really started to change the equation. The iPod. In order to reach a wider audience with that device, Apple had to do something that was seemingly against Steve Jobs’ DNA: make software for Windows. (Ice water! In Hell!) And the slope ultimately proved slippery, albeit in a slow way. Eventually, we got (and then lost) Safari for Windows. And in the more recent era, Apple Music for Android. And Alexa.
As ever more people buy smart speaker devices likes the Amazon Echo, the privacy concerns around such devices increase too. I’ve always been somewhat wary of them. Not that I’d be discussing much of any interest, but the idea of a device sitting in my home listening out attentively for a keyword, rather freaked me out. For Tom Hoggins, those concerns got too much. He explains in the Telegraph why he unplugged his Amazon Echo Dot.
I am not usually one for tin-hat conspiracies, but with the examples mounting and the increased scrutiny on companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook (among many others) for excessive data gathering, I did start to eye Alexa with some suspicion. It then showed an increased propensity for piping up over the dinner table, playing music without being asked or blurting out random facts when the ‘Alexa’ wake word had not been uttered in earnest. By that point, it was time for Alexa to go unplugged.
Users will be able to ask Alexa to access their Apple Music starting December 17th via a new skill.
Siri is a fairly good AI, but the fact that it stumbled on some basics is a source of disappointment for John.
Amazon held an event covering Alexa updates and a variety of Echo devices that proves Amazon thinks the assistant battle is far from over.
Kelly Guimont and Bryan Chaffin join Jeff Gamet to look at the new Echo and Alexa products Amazon announced on Thursday.
Check out this infographic from SEOTribunal.com on voice search that traces the history of the concept of voice search, and also has lots of stats on how people are using voice search today.