November 20, 2019 || Vol. 92, No. 10 - page 7

November 20, 2019
Lifestyles
The Outlook 7
The World of Voice Assistant Technology
ALLISON DEGRUSHE
CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Over the past decade, tech-
nology has advanced more than
ever. Individuals do not need to
look further than their devices
to have questions answered, or
chores completed. Today, mil-
lions around the globe use a
voice assistant through various
devices.
Whether it be through their
smartphones or smart speakers
such as the Amazon Echo (Al-
exa), 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 an-
swer 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 assis-
tant is always available and can
answer anything you ask.
According to PwC, a multi-
national professional services
network specializing in areas
including cybersecurity, approx-
imately 71 percent of consum-
IMAGE TAKEN fby Allison Degrushe
By listening
to voice commands, the Amazon Alexa can play music,
deliver the news, tell you the weather, and control your smart home.
“A voice assistant can be very useful in the 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.”
EUGENIO CESARIO, PH.D.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF COMPUTER SCIENCE AND
SOFTWARE EGINEERING
ers 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 con-
versation begins.
This technological advance-
ment 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 ac-
cessible 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 ef-
ficiently improving consumer’s
lifestyles in a matter of seconds.
One of the most common,
and practical uses of these assis-
tants, is pulling up a recipe while
cooking in the kitchen. Instead
of hovering over a recipe book
while meal prepping, the digi-
tal 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 Shan-
non Johnstone said that voice
assistants are, “Very useful for
people who may have disabili-
ties.” Virtual assistants can help
those with physical disabilities,
such as limited mobility of their
bodies, complete tasks like mak-
ing a call, sending a text mes-
sage, turning on the lights, or
sink hassle-free.
Eugenio Cesario, Ph.D., As-
sociate Professor in Computer
Science and Software Engineer-
ing, agrees with this idea, add-
ing, “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 peo-
ple 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 sim-
ple 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 as-
sistants can discover nearly
everything about you through
recording. Cesario said, “Huge
amounts of data can be detected
by our voice messages: our be-
havior (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 infor-
mation about a person based on
observed traits, tendencies, and
behaviors.”
When asked if she believes if
voice assistants are more help-
ful or harmful, junior commu-
nication 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 cau-
tious around a household gadget,
but it keeps you safe from poten-
tial 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 mak-
ing 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?”
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