Android apps are tracking your every move. Amazon is watching and listening. Google's watching you watch porn. Facebook is up all of our shit, all of the time. Perhaps it shouldn't come as any surprise that Apple, a company that's been flogging user privacy as one of the greatest selling points of their mobile devices, is listening in on many of their customers as well.
From The Verge:
Apple is paying contractors to listen to recorded Siri conversations, according to a new report from The Guardian, with a former contractor revealing that workers have heard accidental recordings of users’ personal lives, including doctor’s appointments, addresses, and even possible drug deals.
According to that contractor, Siri interactions are sent to workers, who listen to the recording and are asked to grade it for a variety of factors, like whether the request was intentional or a false positive that accidentally triggered Siri, or if the response was helpful.
According to The Verge, Apple admitted to The Guardian (I'd love to quite this stuff directly, but European copyright laws yadda yadda) that a 'small number' of user interactions with Siri are analyzed to improve the virtual assistant and to buff up the dictation abilities of Apple's various operating systems. They also note that less than 1% of all user interactions are analyzed in this manner and claim that when they do their picking through of our private conversations, the audio they're focusing on has no user information attached to it. Read the rest
Of the videos like this one showing people drumming along as Siri recites 1 trillion to the tenth power, the particular variation below really reminds me of a minimalist composition by Laurie Anderson or Steve Reich. The toothbrush in the background also adds a bit of dada weirdness to the performance.
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A video of Baltimore-based rapper and producer HAZMATCAZ impersonating Siri is making the rounds, and for good reason -- it's uncanny!
And for those of you who think it's faked, here's a video of her explaining her (no longer) hidden talent:
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James Corden is back with a new episode of Carpool Karaoke. On this drive, he rides, sings, and chats with living legend Barbra Streisand.
The 76-year-old singer sat in the driver's seat and shared that she once phoned Apple CEO Tim Cook in the hopes he could get Siri to pronounce her last name correctly. It worked, Siri now pronounces it the right way, "Strei-sand."
Ms. Streisand has a new album out. It's called "Walls" and she created it in response to "these difficult times:"
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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.
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Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
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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
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.
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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.
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
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
An increasingly frustrated native Japanese speaker discovers Siri can't parse the spoken word "work" when voiced with a Japanese accent
The guys at Gizmodo did a side-by-side comparison of voice search on iPhone, using Siri vs. using Google Voice Search for iOS.