At Amazon’s Re:Mars conference, Alexa’s senior vice-president Rohit Prasad exhibited a startling new voice assistant capability: the supposed ability to mimic voices. So far, there's no timeline whatsoever as to when or if this feature will be released to the public.
Stranger still, Amazon framed this copycatting ability as a way to commemorate lost loved ones. It played a demonstration video in which Alexa read to a child in the voice of his recently deceased grandmother. Prasad stressed that the company was seeking ways to make AI as personal as possible. “While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, he said, "it can definitely make the memories last.” An Amazon spokesperson told Engadget that the new skill can create a synthetic voiceprint after being trained on as little as a minute of audio of the individual it's supposed to be replicating.
Security experts have long held concerns that deep fake audio tools, which use text-to-speech technology to create synthetic voices, would pave the way for a flood of new scams. Voice cloning software has enabled a number of crimes, such as a 2020 incident in the United Arab Emirates where fraudsters fooled a bank manager into transferring $ 35 million after they impersonated a company director. But deep fake audio crimes are still relatively unusual, and the tools available to scammers are, for now, relatively primitive.
Google has helped app creators make better use of Assistant voice commands over time, but its longstanding Conversational Actions framework for those commands has had its limits. It's primarily meant for conventional Android mobile devices, and it's voice-only — the technology won't help much on your smartwatch, or when you need some on-screen interaction. The company is taking steps to make voice control more useful across all its platforms, though. It's expanding the App Actions framework to be more helpful for the entire Android ecosystem, and it's phasing out the old system in the process.
The company is in the midst of integrating App Actions across all Android-based platforms, including automotive platforms and wearables. Assistant can now point you to the relevant apps for a given command even when you don't mention an app's name, or when you're looking for the right software in "All Apps" on a Pixel 6. And if you don't have the app necessary for a command, you'll be taken to the appropriate Play Store page. These will help developers by boosting demand for their apps, of course, but they'll also help you focus on accomplishing tasks rather than crafting the exact phrase you need.
Developers will have a strong incentive to embrace the newer technology. Google is sunsetting Conversational Actions in June 2023, and plans to "turn down" features like console analytics at that point. The extra year will give app producers the time to learn App Actions and otherwise transition away from the earlier approach.
You might have seen this shift coming. Conversational Actions was introduced five years ago, only to be supplemented by App Actions (in an initially limited form) in 2019 — Google has been priming itself for a handover like this for a while. And with Google committing to major expansions of platforms like Android Auto and Wear OS, upgraded voice functionality is that much more important for the company.
Google has begun allowing select devices from other OEMs to install their Phone dialer app from the Play Store, the latest service they have slowly started opening up. At this point the release cadence for new smart services that Google develops seems pretty clear – they announce and typically launch their new Assistant feature, or […]
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In the tech world, a lot happens in a week. So much news goes on that it’s almost impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of it. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of the top 10 tech stories from this week.
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