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Voice-Assisted Speakers Are the Future, but Are We Ready for Them?

Amazon & Google are pushing these devices into our living rooms. But what about the perils that come with them? 

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Every time I think about artificial intelligence working in tandem with voice assistance, the movie Her is the first thing that pops up in my head. Over the past few years, the film has been replicated in reality by tech giants like Google and Amazon, and with Microsoft and Apple too getting into to the act.

Products like Echo and Google Home have shown us the capability of voice-enabled assistant devices, and experts believe that’s where the future is headed. But the question that begs to be asked is: are we ready to face that kind of future just yet?

Convenience has made us forget the perils of privacy, leaving us vulnerable to incidents that can disrupt our daily life. Google has very much taken control over our lives and these machines are just going to make it worse.

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This is Where it Starts

The industry has played a clever game with us, by slowly introducing artificial intelligence into our lives.

Most of what voice assistance does is based on the data that tech giants have acquired from us over the years. 

It started in the form of Siri and Google Now and later, Microsoft joined the party with Cortana. The voice-assistant feature had entered our lives, becoming crucial to us for even sundry activities like making phone calls or calling a cab.

Amazon & Google are pushing these devices into our living rooms. But what about the perils that come with them? 
Voice-assistant first came to our phones. (Photo: The Quint)

Google then decided that with products like Google Home – a cutting-edge voice-enabled speaker – it can make its way to our living room and keep an eye (scary thought, that) on whatever happens around us.

And that’s how it began.

Our data is no longer ours (that’s the sad and disturbing truth), every activity that takes place on the internet is known to one company or the other, and we seem to be okay with that. This lax attitude has made Google and Apple the force they are, thriving on whatever we do using the devices provided by them.

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Voice Ready to Displace Visuals?

Technology has evolved at a rapid pace and it has no intentions of slowing down anytime soon. Apple and Microsoft are soon going to follow Google’s lead and plan to make their own versions of voice-enabled speakers.

Amazon & Google are pushing these devices into our living rooms. But what about the perils that come with them? 
Google Home. (Photo Courtesy: Google)

But is that really what we’re looking for? Traditionally, we have preferred the touch-and-feel experience over virtual/voice services. But as the e-commerce industry has shown us, we can adapt.

A recent report in the MIT Technology Review quoted an expert as saying that while speech input is three times quicker than typing on mobile devices, the fastest way for a machine to give information to you is via a screen. Which is why it was interesting to see Amazon roll out its voice-controlled speaker Echo in a new avatar, with the addition of (surprise, surprise) a screen for visual cues.

Amazon & Google are pushing these devices into our living rooms. But what about the perils that come with them? 
Amazon’s Echo now comes with a screen. (Photo Courtesy: Amazon)

It seems Amazon realised that the impact of voice assistance pales in front of a device that packs in a screen. After all, who wouldn’t prefer reading a recipe than being read to?

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Apple to Spearhead the Move?

From discarding the stylus to ditching the 3.5mm audio jack recently, anything that Apple does makes the industry sit up and take notice. The Cupertino giant has been lagging behind its competition but is still creating a space for itself, even though its rivals have the first-mover advantage.

Amazon & Google are pushing these devices into our living rooms. But what about the perils that come with them? 
Siri is due for a big upgrade. (Photo: iStock)

Which is why everyone is keen to see if the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2017) is when Apple will showcase its Siri-enabled, video-centric device – and if that’s going to ruffle its rivals’ feathers. Amazon, though, might not agree with that (as it believes Echo is one-of-its-kind).

Apple hasn’t really set the industry alight for quite some time now, but maybe the rumoured Siri speaker could change that.

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Smartness – Everywhere Around Us

The industry foresees a future where everything, including our phones, will be smart. Smart lights, cookers and TVs have already made it to the market and cars are also getting there, but what concerns us is the nature of connectivity between all these devices.

Amazon & Google are pushing these devices into our living rooms. But what about the perils that come with them? 
The Internet of Things is taking us closer to machines than ever. (Photo: iStock)

We’re in a digital era, where anything can be compromised – and this has the experts worried. But as individuals, are we bothered yet? Well, that’s not happening, unless something hits us hard. And by then, it’ll be too late.

These devices, for all the convenience they offer, will always come with that pinch of vulnerability that is enough to leave everything in a mess. And that’s something we already face every day.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Amazon Echo   Apple Siri   Google Assistant 

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