Voice assistants suck (empirically)

New research from legendary usability researchers The Nielsen (previously) Norman (previously) Group finds that voice assistants are basically a hot mess that people only use because they are marginally better than nothing. Read the rest

If Siri existed in the 1980s

Leave it to Squirrel Monkey (previously) to imagine what Siri might have been like in the eighties. In this spoof called Wonders of the World Wide Web, they give the ancient alter ego of Apple's voice-controlled personal assistant a garbled, synthesized voice which I found particularly funny. Be sure to watch the whole video, as it just gets weirder as it goes along.

(Tastefully Offensive) Read the rest

Adversarial examples: attack can imperceptibly alter any sound (or silence), embedding speech that only voice-assistants will hear

Adversarial examples have torn into the robustness of machine-vision systems: it turns out that changing even a single well-placed pixel can confound otherwise reliable classifiers, and with the right tricks they can be made to reliably misclassify one thing as another or fail to notice an object altogether. But even as vision systems were falling to adversarial examples, audio systems remained stubbornly hard to fool, until now. Read the rest

(Virtually) No one should ever own an Echo or any other "voice assistant" product

If you buy one of those intrinsically insecure, always-on "smart speakers" from Google, Amazon, Apple or other players, you're installing a constantly listening presence in your home that by design listens to every word you say, and which is very likely to suffer at least one catastrophic breach that allows hackers (possibly low-level dum-dums like the ransomware creeps who took whole hospitals hostage this year, then asked for a mere $300 to give them back because they were such penny-ante grifters) to gain access to millions of these gadgets, along with machine-learning-trained models that will help them pluck blackmail material, credit card numbers, and humiliating disclosures out of the stream of speech they're capturing. Read the rest

Study measuring IQ of various AI puts Google's at 47.28

Google's AI scored more than twice as high as Apple's Siri in a comparative analysis designed to assess AI threat. Read the rest

Feeling down? Soon you'll be able to skip the shrink and ask Siri

Conversations with Siri are about to become a whole lot deeper and likely much more unsettling as users begin seeking personal guidance from the voice assistant.

Apple is preparing Siri to become iPhone customers’ virtual therapist, according to the International Business Times. The tech company is ideally seeking someone with a psychology background and programming capabilities, according to a job posting from April.

“People have serious conversations with Siri,” the description reads. “People talk to Siri about all kinds of things, including when they’re having a stressful day or have something serious on their mind...They turn to Siri in emergencies or when they want guidance on living a healthier life.”

Let’s just hope Siri is better at diagnosing our unresolved childhood issues, than she is at voice recognition.

Image: Jacquelinekato Read the rest

Easter egg: How to make Siri recite every word to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

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Report: Google to introduce Amazon Echo competitor device called 'Google Home'

Anonymous sources quoted in the New York Times and elsewhere today said Google will introduce a competitor to Amazon's Echo on Wednesday. Its long-anticipated entry into the voice-activated home device market is said to be named Google Home. Read the rest

The voice of Siri explains the art of the voiceover

Voice actor Susan Bennett was the original voice of the iPhone assistant Siri. It's fun to hear her use different voices in this video, made by Vox. Here's the full article.

Siri needs to be able to say just about everything in the English language, and that took a lot of hard work.

"I recorded four hours a day, five days a week for the month of July," Bennett says. For a voice actor, that workload causes a lot of strain. "That's a long time to be talking constantly. Consequently, you get tired."

The original Siri "was to sound otherworldly and have a dry sense of humor," Bennett says. She added that to her take on the character, even as she focused on staying consistent and clear.

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Your voice-to-text speech is recorded and sent to strangers

Redditor Fallenmyst just started a job at Walk N'talk Technologies, where she listens to randomly sampled speech-to-text recordings from our mobile phones, correcting machine conversions. Read the rest

Siri keeps data for "up to two years", but only anonymously

Robert McMillan explains what happens to the data generated and stored with Siri queries: "Once the voice recording is six months old, Apple “disassociates” your user number from the clip, deleting the number from the voice file. But it keeps these disassociated files for up to 18 more months for testing and product improvement purposes." [Wired] Read the rest

Apple's Siri vs. Japanese-accented English

An increasingly frustrated native Japanese speaker discovers Siri can't parse the spoken word "work" when voiced with a Japanese accent

Siri vs. Google Voice Search for iPhone

The guys at Gizmodo did a side-by-side comparison of voice search on iPhone, using Siri vs. using Google Voice Search for iOS.

Conan O'Brien tackles Apple's New Siri Commercial

Oh, Conan: Apple's New Siri Commercial Cuts To The Chase. Will be region-blocked or ad-preceded for many of you, but there are some illicit copies floating around on YouTube. (Thanks, Susannah Breslin!) Read the rest