I'm now sufficiently intrigued with Amazon Echo and Google Home. But when it comes to an actual purchase, I'm still on the fence. What about you?
Maybe it’s just me. The idea of having “machines” constantly listening to me in the privacy of my living room, bedroom, kitchen or — God forbid — the bathroom? It freaks me out.
Introducing Nvidia Spot
When Nvidia’s CEO Jen-Hsun Huang introduced in his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show something called “Nvidia Spot,” a small artificial intelligence microphone designed to “extend intelligent control throughout the house,” as he put it, I did a double-take. “Did he just say ‘Nvidia Spy?’ ”
At CES, we also learned that Alexa isn’t just for the Amazon Echo anymore. With the help of Alexa Voice Services, any developer can now add the Amazon virtual assistant to their device; Google's letting developers do the same with Google Assistant.
In short, even if I don't want a microphone eavesdropping on me, I may no longer have a choice.
Building blocks of Google's Conversation Action (Source: Google)
This is the new norm the industry was trumpeting at the Consumer Electronics Show.
Hardware suppliers, software designers and service providers are enamored with the power of AI. The next big thing is AI data centers fully equipped to collect, learn and analyze data, transforming all that eavesdropped data into “information.”
Who am I to judge?
As I reported from the show floor, we face a future in which convenience trumps privacy and the suspension of disbelief breeds insecurity. It struck me that practically everyone is willing to go along without much questioning the consequences.
Who am I to judge? The new generation of kids, as I learned recently, don’t memorize the multiplication tables in school. Why bother when you can just Google: “Hey Google, what’s 5 times 7?” If I were a 7-year-old today, I might consider Google Home my best friend.
I’ve been looking for actual data on how consumers perceive the emerging market of voice-enabled digital assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
What I found is a survey result from Accenture, in a report called Dynamic Digital Consumers. Between October and November 2016, Accenture did a questionnaire survey with approximately 26,000 consumers in 26 countries.
The survey found that only 4 percent of respondents own a voice-enabled digital assistant. While that seems like a very small portion of the population, two-thirds (65 percent) of owners said they use the device regularly. Accenture interpreted this as “showing strong acceptance of this new technology.”
Actually, voice assistants on smartphones are also becoming popular, “as the AI technology powering these services has improved dramatically,” wrote Accenture. “Younger consumers are leading the adoption, with more than four in five (84 percent) of 14-to-17 year olds saying they either use this technology today or are interested in doing so.”
The survey also found that consumers are willing to embrace a wide array of potential AI-powered, personalized services, with a majority interested in personal health assistants (cited by 60 percent), smart trip assistants (59 percent) and entertainment advisors (51 percent).
The findings confirm a wide-open market for vendors to add a layer of voice-enabled AI features to every new device.
However, I’m puzzled. Why ask machines questions when we have family members, friends, teachers and colleagues to answer them?
Next page: Breaking down the survey results