Voice assistants: technology for the lazy?
11 Sep, 2018
The time has come! Vocal assistants are starting to appear everywhere and we (average people) don’t really know what it’s for… What’s the current use of it? Does this new technological and so-called trend really serve as much as their creators say or does it reflect a race for ego and technological recognition?
This is a new era: no more time to learn to speak the language of computers, now it is the computer that learns to speak our language.
A quick look back: Amazon Echo, equipped with Alexa technology, was launched in the United States in November 2014, yes, already! We haven’t heard much about it because it was only released in France a few weeks ago to compete with Apple and its Homepod equipped with Siri, and finally Google Assistant and its Google Home speakers… Because well there is a real market there… really? Let’s look closer at this:
Many of us have never used Siri on their i-Phone, except maybe once or twice to test it at first… but we quickly found it useless to ask things orally when in a few clicks we can find everything (not to mention the strange impression that someone speaking aloud to their smartphone causes) In addition, every other time the answer is not the one expected and the disappointment is present ! (who did not find himself on the verge of suicide after repeating 10 times “menu” to a telephone voice server that did not understand anything?)
To illustrate this, we note the unfortunate adventure of a Portland couple who paid the price for these vocal “misunderstandings”, Alexa recorded a whole conversation without their knowledge and sent it to one of their random contacts.
“This incident is a real disavowal for Amazon, which has always ensured that its voice assistants do not listen to its users’ conversations. Conclusion: Amazon’s voice assistant would simply have misinterpreted more than five different commands from its users, before making the wrong decision.”
Then, there is an unsuspected feature of these small boxes: conversations recorded by the speakers could potentially be used as evidence in police investigations. Yes, yes, it is indeed a connected microphone, a view on everyone’s privacy, that sits in our apartment. Indeed, in 2016, after police asked to hear Amazon’s voice assistant in a murder case, the conversations determined an accused’s guilt. As a result, since then conversations can now be recorded and Amazon remains unclear about the use of this somewhat intrusive means….
When we see that Google directly offers brands to integrate their technology into a whole bunch of devices such as speakers, robots, vehicles, tablets… we will probably have no choice but to get in touch with our vocal friends in the near future (in the United States, 1 in 5 households is already equipped with its smart speaker). At the same time there has been so much work invested that it must be made profitable! When we see for example that to train the Google assistant, the registration of thousands of people saying “OK google” was necessary…. And they also do great ads to promote these features and it makes you “almost” want it (DAMN)!
Last but not least, these assistants execute your wishes without politeness, so the tendency to speak in a colder manner and to give orders becomes a real problem for the new generations directly confronted with this technology.” Okay Google, give me the weather,””Alexa, fill the fridge,””Siri, call my mother! ». We are already used to having everything quickly (“really grandpa, you only have the adsl in your house???? It takes 20 seconds for my site to appear, wtf?!”) NO to a bossy new gen!
Amazon, who felt a little bad, has launched Echo Dot Kids Edition, a connected speaker adapted for children, which in addition to a more colorful design, thanks and rewards the child who asks a polite question… Here we all go talking to machines in separate rooms (doesn’t that remind you about something?)
On the app side: amazon shopping features do not work very well, Alexa does not recognize all the words and buys you shoelaces instead of sneakers… To order a pizza you will have to configure your entire account in advance on a computer to make it work.
To try to see the positive side here are some operations that have proved interesting in the use of these new devices:
Warner, who had created a whole system to promote the release of “Dunkirk” or even on the video game side with Destiny 2 or COD which integrates vocal skills acting directly on the game’s action.
We will therefore have to wait a few more months (see years) to see if agencies and brands find real “positive” uses for these voice assistants who will soon invade our daily lives… We wish them all the best!
Benoit Zante / petit Web
“Pour que les marques trouvent leur voix sur Alexa”
“Quand Google soulève le capot de son Assistant”
Mylène Bertaux « Bossy generation » : votre assistant vocal va-t-il transformer votre enfant en « connard »?
Alexandra Saviana pour Marianne.net
Olivier Robillart “Enceintes connectées : attention à ce que vous dites à Alexa”