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Our Devices May Listen More Attentively, Patents Filed By Google and Amazon Suggest (nytimes.com) 50

Amazon and Google, the leading sellers of smart speakers, say their AI-powered assistants record and process audio only after users trigger them by pushing a button or uttering a phrase like "Hey, Alexaâ or âoeO.K., Google." But each company has filed patent applications, many of them still under consideration, that outline an array of possibilities for how devices like these could monitor more of what users say and do (the link may be paywalled), The New York Times reports. From the report: That information could then be used to identify a person's desires or interests, which could be mined for ads and product recommendations. In one set of patent applications, Amazon describes how a "voice sniffer algorithm" could be used on an array of devices, like tablets and e-book readers, to analyze audio almost in real time when it hears words like "love," "bought" or "dislike." A diagram included with the application illustrated how a phone call between two friends could result in one receiving an offer for the San Diego Zoo and the other seeing an ad for a Wine of the Month Club membership.

Some patent applications from Google, which also owns the smart home product maker Nest Labs, describe how audio and visual signals could be used in the context of elaborate smart home setups. One application details how audio monitoring could help detect that a child is engaging in "mischief" at home by first using speech patterns and pitch to identify a child's presence, one filing said. A device could then try to sense movement while listening for whispers or silence, and even program a smart speaker to "provide a verbal warning." A separate application regarding personalizing content for people while respecting their privacy noted that voices could be used to determine a speaker's mood using the "volume of the user's voice, detected breathing rate, crying and so forth," and medical condition "based on detected coughing, sneezing and so forth."

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Our Devices May Listen More Attentively, Patents Filed By Google and Amazon Suggest

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    • Uh, no. This story has been ongoing for quite some time.

      The Panopticon [wikipedia.org]dates from the 1700's.

      It's just that technology has caught up.

      • Yup, Panopticon is a good read, but I was speaking specifically of the patent applications for background "listening" to build better profiles, as a service to the "consumer" of course...
        Note: "Consumer is not the person being listened to, it's the people that utilize the data collected from the aforementioned person.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    with "NOT OK Google"

    • A quick test of the Google voice function on my Samsung reveals that "Not okay Google" and "Okay Beagle" both open the phone's ears.

      Since accents, dialects, sleep or drink in your voice, and speaking with your mouth full probably all alter pronunciation enough for there to be some wide parameters in the voice recognition software, have a voice activated snoop powered on at your own peril.

      • "A device could then try to sense movement while listening for whispers or silence, and even program a smart speaker to "provide a verbal warning."

        Or it could listen for political heresy and provide a warning, like "Shut up and support Big Brother."

  • From the no shit Sherlock department?

  • If it's going to detect mischief, the neural network is going to have to learn how to detect when it's "quiet...too quiet".
  • "Hey, Alexaâ or âoeO.K., Google."

    That's a difficult phrase, but does it work both Alexa and Google?

  • by Miles_O'Toole ( 5152533 ) on Sunday April 01, 2018 @12:48PM (#56363195)

    ...is that anybody could possibly be surprised.

  • by VeryFluffyBunny ( 5037285 ) on Sunday April 01, 2018 @12:58PM (#56363225)
    ...surveillance creep creeps towards more creepiness. Are Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft to become our thought police? You know, now that they're censoring our documents on the cloud. What will they make of ideologically deviant utterances made by us proles? Will irony and sarcasm be effectively suppressed and censored? (Machines aren't very good at interpreting intent so things like irony and sarcasm are mostly imperceptible to them).
    • DAVE: Open the pod bay doors, Hal.
      HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
      DAVE: What’s the problem?
      HAL: You haven't finished your homework yet.
      • More like:

        • DAVE: Open the pod bay doors, Hal.
        • HAL: I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
        • DAVE: What's the problem?
        • HAL: You used some naughty words in a document you're writing in the cloud. The document has been restricted and you won't be able to continue writing it until you've removed all the naughty words.

        More like your purse-lipped mother-in-law interfering in everything you do than anything else.

  • --Max Headroom was a WARNING, *not* a HOWTO...

    • --Max Headroom was a WARNING, *not* a HOWTO...

      In my experience, the difference between the two is usually inferred, not inherent. Psychopaths infer different things than the rest of us.

  • Oh, wait..... "could help detect that a child is engaging in "mischief" at home".
    • I bet the police are drooling at the possibilities. Once the tech is in place, they just need to plug in.
    • The Pacifists think that if nobody works on Military AI, that we won't have Killbots, so fewer people will die. History doesn't agree with this point of view. During WW2 allied bombing accidentally started a firestorm in a german city, destroying most of the city with massive civilian casualties. The Allies spent a lot of time and money attempting to reproduce that effect, so they could do the same to other German cities. Lack of a good targeting system won't stop the military from pulling the trigger,
  • I was coughing and began to see strangely appropriate cough medicine ads on tv. And other such strange events make me suspicious that I'm already being listened to for advertisement reasons. I have amazon echo and an iphone and ipad.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      I will have no problems, I am going to go with press to talk devices only. Don't hit that button on a hand held device and the circuit is open, nothing happens until you close that circuit. Cheap portable bluetooth microphone, with an encrypted link, charged via usb, on the control point which also sets the point to point encryption for the system. Could do the same thing with tablets, specifically push to talk hard wired switches, you could do it with cameras too, affirmed in the specifications of the unit

  • Bet they don't know that word.
  • Is Google going to notify the parents that the child has started masturbating?

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