People Are Starting to Realize How Voice Assistants Actually Work – The Atlantic

Written by Sidney Fussell

Clapping to turn on the lights. Paying for food by staring into space. Talking aloud to an empty room. Technology, and especially voice technology, has normalized some bizarre behaviors. It can be hard to remember that summoning Alexa or Siri by speaking to a watch, a blank screen, or a speaker two rooms away was eerie in the beginning, like almost any exercise that requires communicating with the unseen. Perhaps because voice assistants are invisible, we accepted the idea that the artificial intelligence powering them worked like magic, independently responding to our commands without human intervention. We’ve been proved wrong five times over.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that hundreds of Facebook contractors listened to and transcribed voice clips from messages users spoke aloud to the Messenger app. Their job was to ensure the AI-generated transcripts matched the audio. Facebook says that the clips were anonymized and none of the users were identifiable.

“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” a Facebook company spokesperson said in an emailed statement to The Atlantic.

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By Maria Ordonez
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