Voice Assistant

The World of Voice Assistant Technology

Over the past decade, technology has advanced more than ever. Individuals do not need to look further than their devices to have questions answered, or chores completed. Today, millions around the globe use a voice assistant through various devices.

Whether it be through their smartphones or smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo (Alexa), Google Home, or Apple’s Siri, a built-in assistant waits for you at every corner.

A voice assistant, as defined by Dictionary.com is “a device or piece of software that can perform basic tasks and answer some questions, often in response to natural language commands and prompts.”

These friendly devices are made to complete everyday tasks faster and easier than ever before. Rather than putting in the work yourself, a voice assistant is always available and can answer anything you ask.

According to PwC, a multinational professional services network specializing in areas including cybersecurity, approximately 71 percent of consumers use a voice assistant to seek information. By simply saying, “Alexa,” “Hey, Siri,” or “Ok Google” grabs the attention of the voice assistant and the conversation begins.

This technological advancement is taking the world, and consumer market by storm; leaving little reason for buyers to skip out on this purchase. 

Voice assistants are marketed to help make your life easier. This technology is readily accessible throughout the day and can complete just about any task you have on your mind. The Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, and Google Home focus on efficiently improving consumer’s lifestyles in a matter of seconds.

One of the most common, and practical uses of these assistants, is pulling up a recipe while cooking in the kitchen. Instead of hovering over a recipe book while meal prepping, the digital companion will read you the recipe step by step to make the process run smoothly. 

Jiacun Wang, Ph.D., Program Director for Master of Science in Software Engineering said, “Voice assistants have brought us a new and yet very convenient way to retrieve information from the internet,” and are, “beneficial to daily life.”

Junior English student Shannon Johnstone said that voice assistants are, “Very useful for people who may have disabilities.” Virtual assistants can help those with physical disabilities, such as limited mobility of their bodies, complete tasks like making a call, sending a text message, turning on the lights, or sink hassle-free. 

Eugenio Cesario, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Computer Science and Software Engineering, agrees with this idea, adding, “I think that they are great technological devices that can be very useful to improve our home management. A voice assistant can be very useful in case of a dangerous event; it can help people with disabilities to live more comfortably in their home, and it can help people living alone in their house.”

Research has shown that voice assistants can not only help the disabled but decrease loneliness as well.  According to a recent study in the United Kingdom, the mental health of hundreds of people increased through a simple conversation with Google Assistant. 

Although these gadgets are helpful, it is important to note the lack of privacy that comes with voice assistants. Even when the device is not activated, they can actively listen and record conversations occurring in the area. 

Cesario added that voice assistants can discover nearly everything about you through recording. Cesario said, “Huge amounts of data can be detected by our voice messages: our behavior (at what time we go to work, at what time we go back home), our preferences (food, movies, and hobbies), and even ages and hobbies of our kids. All such data could be used for user profiling, which is the process of extrapolating aggregated information about a person based on observed traits, tendencies, and behaviors.”

 When asked if she believes if voice assistants are more helpful or harmful, junior communication student, Alessandra Scarpaci said “Voice assistants are more harmful than they are helpful.” Scarpaci questioned, “How do you have any privacy if it listens to every single thing you say?”

If you do purchase a device with a voice assistant, be aware of what you say around it. It may seem crazy to have to be cautious around a household gadget, but it keeps you safe from potential harm.

Voice assistant technology is becoming smarter and more interactive over the years. The benefits are great when it comes to managing your time and making life easier. However, next time you think about asking Siri, Google, or Amazon Alexa to check the weather for you, consider asking “Are you spying on me?”

PHOTO TAKEN by Allison Degrushe