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Alexa and Siri can learn a lot from the sound of your voice

Researchers have been developing audio analysis AI algorithms that can extract personal information, such as who you are, current location, where you come from, your gender and age, and the language you’re speaking, not through words, but the way your voice sounds when you talk. Tone, whether you’re lying or not, and even your attitude, can all be analysed by audio analysis mechanisms. Such algorithms that interpret sound use an AI technique known as machine learning.

Currently, companies such as Google with its voice assistance and Amazon’s Alexa use what is called ‘Natural Language Processing’ (NLP) to match our voices to actions for them to conduct, and they continue learning using a technique known as machine learning. This involves the training of algorithms to understand the characteristics of a piece of information by training it with an extensive set of labelled data, in which the algorithm will be able to identify such characteristics it learned over some time

Researchers have been developing audio analysis AI algorithms that can extract personal information, such as who you are, current location, where you come from, your gender and age, and the language you’re speaking, not through words, but the way your voice sounds when you talk

A voice analysis algorithm could be trained by inputting labelled recorded data, for example: a large set of conversations and specific tones tagged as ‘anger’ or ‘joy’, in which an algorithm when fed a large collection would be able to infer and understand such tones from the sounds generated in a new environment.  Given that most of our mobile devices have microphones, we often find ourselves paranoid that these devices are always listening. Well, in some cases this might be true, but that doesn’t mean they are recording: listening and recording are two different things.

When you trigger a device assistant by saying “Hey Google” or “Alexa”, the device is waiting for such a hot word to process and record information before conducting the commands. Although it is listening, background noise is worthless for major companies thus they only record data after triggering the assistance. In case you’re still feeling uneasy, voice assistance can be switched off completely on your phone by removing the app’s access to the microphone, so you can continue speaking without the paranoia.

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