Alexa Enters Personal and Private Territory

Virtual assistants and the debate on privacy are inevitably intertwined. But as consumers adopt personal voice-integrated devices like smart watches, rings, glasses, and even toothbrushes (the list is endless), the presence of these assistants in our daily routines is revealing our growing trust and comfort in voice technology. Users expect for tech companies to safeguard their private information, and for the most part, they have. However, it is still early days for voice-enabled devices, and technology companies are learning quickly from security concerns that have emerged in the last few years. As voice AI appears on almost any imaginable surface from our car to the bathroom, big tech must ensure all touchpoints are fortified from bad actors if they want to preserve the trust of their customers. And if they do listen in on your activity, they have to be transparent about why and provide options to users. Also this week, Oracle Assistant learns a few languages and Alexa teaches you how to brush your teeth.

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Voice’s Latest Privacy Challenge 

Even the strong are vulnerable. A recent study of the recently revamped Alexa smartphone app by Check Point researchers found that the assistant’s web servers contained a bug that attackers could have used to gain access to the personal information, speech histories, and accounts of Amazon users. Through a fraudulent link that users accidentally clicked on, hackers could then install malicious skills or obtain personal information. Even though strikes like these are made with the best of intentions, they illustrate the merit of ongoing privacy concerns and show that technology companies in the voice space must continue their vigilance on creating secure experiences for users. Amazon has since fixed the issue, making Alexa more secure for the future. More on VentureBeat

Oracle Assistant is Mr. Worldwide

The Oracle Digital Assistant is now a global citizen. A major update included native multilingual natural language understanding to the software, along with expanded understanding of sentences and metaphors. No longer do companies have to translate information from their native languages into English and back again—the assistant is trained to respond in the client’s language. This advanced capability comes on the heels of Salesforce’s retirement of its Einstein voice assistant, showing just how quickly the enterprise virtual assistant landscape is changing. Oracle’s move may give it a head start as players like Microsoft shift their sights to the workplace. More on Voicebot.ai

My Shiny Teeth and Alexa

Alexa is here to help keep your cavities in check. Oral-B introduced the first Alexa-enabled electric toothbrush for a smart and fun addition to your daily routines. The Alexa smart charger base can play songs or news at your request or order additional brush heads. To perfect your brushing habits, the assistant provides real-time feedback on your brushing behaviors, including frequency, duration, pressure, and coverage. However, it’ll cost you $229.99 to enlist Alexa’s dental advice. As voice assistants integrate into more intimate spaces, more use cases will continue to emerge. More on MediaPost

Stats Don’t Lie

30M smart speakers were sold globally in Q2 2020, an increase of 6% from Q1. (data via Strategy Analytics)

36% of parents with a child 11 years-old or younger say their child uses or interacts with a voice assistant. (data via Pew Research)

Chart of the Week

voice-assistants-adoption-maturity
(TechCrunch n.b. paywall)


How the Pandemic Changed Voice Predictions

In January, our VP of Strategic Partnerships Eric Turkington shared his predictions on the future of voice technology. Seven months and a global pandemic later, the world has changed and many are seeing voice as a powerful medium for our current reality. With this in mind, Eric has revisited his forecast as part of SoundHound’s ‘new Future of Voice AI’ update. See what’s changed here.