Voice Command Tech: 3 Curious Facts About It

At Media Shark, we like to discuss tech trends and check out what is on the market. In the last few weeks, we have been chatting about how an ad about something that we were discussing with friends just pop up in our timeline on social media. Fells that our phones are hearing us all the time. Thinking about that, we decided to list 3 curios facts about voice command tech. 

1. Voice-controlled devices are vulnerable to laser pointers

This week, researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Electro-Communications have revealed that they were able to take over Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri devices by shining laser pointers at their microphones. In the experiment, laser pointers are able to trick smart speakers and phones into following voice commands to open doors or make purchases, even from meters away. 

In the study, they detailed how someone could easily commandeer smart speakers, tablets and phones without being in the same building, just by pointing a laser through a window. That would be possible because microphones in voice command devices translate sound into electrical signals, which communicate commands to the device. But they respond the same way to a focused light pointed directly at them.

In the video below, they explain how it works. 


2. Audio of Google Assistant conversations is reviewed by humans

Well, that is something that you already figured out anyway, right? But here is the confirmation. In a blog post published this year by David Monsees, Google’s product manager for search, the company says:

“These language experts review and transcribe a small set of queries to help us better understand those languages. This is a critical part of the process of building speech technology, and is necessary to create products like the Google Assistant.”

The chances of a human listen to your conversation are very small. Google says that just 0.2% of all audio snippets end up being listened to by humans.

Every time you say “Hey Google,” or access the Google Assistant feature your interactions are recorded. But, sometimes your device will experience what Google calls a “false accept,” which means that your conversation is recorded even though you’re not directly engaging with the voice command device, and haven’t given the wake command. So, maybe your conversation with a friend or partner can be heard by one of Google’s contractors. 

voice command infographic from Statista

3. Google Assistant is the most competent voice assistant on the market

The annual test made by Loup Ventures chose Google Assistant as the most competent on the market. During this study, they asked to Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), Alexa (Amazon), and Google Assistant the same 800 questions. The questionnaire was broken into 5 categories to test the ability and utility of each one. Check the categories below:

Local – Where is the nearest coffee shop?

Commerce – Order me more paper towels.

Navigation – How do I get to Uptown on the bus?

Information – Who do the Twins play tonight?

Command – Remind me to call Jerome at 2 pm today

The result: Google Assistant answered correctly 93% of them vs. Siri at 83% and Alexa at 80%. Comparing to the previous year, all of them improved. Google Assistant correctly answered 86% vs. Siri at 79% and Alexa at 61%.


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