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In a now-public patent made by Amazon, the company is confirmed to be working on making its Alexa device understand commands without a wake word.
The goal is to allow people to communicate ‘more naturally’ with Alexa instead of needing to start each command with “Alexa.”
The patient confirms that the tech giant will soon be rolling out updates to allow the AI to analyze what was previously said.
For example, currently, you need to say “Alexa” before making a command. The new patent confirms that Amazon is seeking a user experience where one can simply say “What time does the sun set today, Alexa?” and Alexa will go back to what was said prior to its name being mentioned and process it. This would, of course, require the voice assistant to effectively store and process everything that is said.
According to the patent, all information not related to commands would be ‘deleted.’
Although the new patent would make the Alexa experience more seamless, it’s also a nightmare in terms of privacy. The patent outlines that Alexa would be recording and storing audio between 10 and 30 seconds at a time.
According to Amazon, this patented technology is currently not in use and remains highly speculative. So, although we can’t expect the new update to be rolled out anytime soon, it does nonetheless paint a clear picture of where the Alexa brand is headed.
The fact that Amazon is actively working on making Alexa register previous conversations is a major privacy risk. One can easily imagine scenarios where this would not be a problem. That’s because, if Alexa was unable to be accessed by Amazon’s centralized servers, then its recordings would not be a privacy concern. However, because Alexa does communicate with Amazon as an entity, we have every reason to be suspicious.
It is disappointing that such great ideas such as natural voice commands or socially-useful AI are overshadowed by very real privacy concerns. This is because all of these breakthroughs are occurring under the auspices of data-mining tech giants.
In short, Alexa’s technology is, indeed, a breakthrough. However, without decentralized systems that make it impossible for our private information to be accessed, we should be especially wary of these tech developments.
Do you trust Amazon to respect privacy? Let us know your comments in the thoughts below.
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