ALL NEWS

Hey Alexa, are you listening to me?

Apr 11, 2019, 1:59 PM | Updated: Apr 12, 2019, 5:57 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Yes, Alexa is listening to you — and the smart speaker-turned-personal assistant isn’t the only one.

Amazon’s Alexa is one of the many now prevalent digital assistants meant to make your life easier and answer simple questions about your upcoming calendar appointments, or set timers and alarms, and even change the temperature or turn on your wi-fi connected smart home appliances.

Much of the ability of these digital assistants come from the vast computing power that Amazon has to run speech recognition software to change your voice into 1’s and 0’s that Alexa can understand. But to anyone who’s familiar with trying to ask the device a simple question knows, sometimes it’s incredibly frustrating.

“Somewhere along the way someone has to annotate that data that’s coming in,” Matt Day from Bloomberg News said.

Designated employees go in and see how much of what you said to the machine was heard correctly. They transcribe and annotate other snippets from conversations and questions to make sure that Alexa is understanding them properly, then feed that information back into the system. The goal: to keep teaching Alexa to be better at answering even the simplest questions, like what the weather is going to be like tomorrow.

“People are saying billions of things into Alexa [Amazon] says, and it’s going to pick up accidentally a ton of stuff including some disturbing things or some funny things,” Day said.

Day said those who work for Amazon across the globe have heard things like children crying, poor singing in the shower, and what, at times, may have been a sexual assault.

This process isn’t something that is unheard of, though. In the tech world, this form of processing is broadly known as ‘supervised learning’ when a human is involved, and when it is paired with other machine learning is known as ‘semi-supervised learning’.

There are thousands of these employees hired to listen and transcribe recordings captured by Amazon’s line of Echo speakers. Bloomberg reports those employees are transcribing up to 1,000 audio clips during their 9-hour shifts every day.

According to Bloomberg, several people that had reportedly worked for the internet giant said that the recordings are associated with the customer’s first name, device serial number, and an account number.

Amazon told KSLNewsradio that they take the security of their customers’ personal information seriously and only annotate “an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order [to] improve the customer experience.”

The statement continued: “Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this workflow. All information is treated with high confidentiality and we use multi-factor authentication to restrict access, service encryption and audits of our control environment to protect it.”

Amazon said that the employees are there to help train the speech recognition so that Alexa better understands your requests.

“We have strict technical and operational safeguards and have a zero tolerance policy for the abuse of our system,” the Amazon statement continued.

Echo devices use an on-device keyword spotting to detect a, “wake word,” and an Amazon spokesperson said that this is the default.

“Echo devices are designed to detect only your chosen wake word (Alexa, Amazon, Computer or Echo). The device detects the wake word by identifying acoustic patterns that match the wake word. No audio is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake word (or Alexa is activated by pressing a button).” They continued.

You can tell if your device is streaming that information back to the cloud to get your answer when the light ring on the top of the Echo glows blue.

 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

Chad Daybell during his murder trial on April 16, 2024....

Mary Culbertson

Judge bars prosecutor from taking stand in Chad Daybell trial

On the fourth day of testimony in the Chad Daybell trial Tuesday, the jury heard further testimony from law enforcement officers.

3 hours ago

FILE - Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., gestures as he answers quest...

Associated Press

Bob Graham, ex-US senator and Florida governor, dies at 87

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. and two-term Florida Gov. Bob Graham, who gained national prominence as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks and as an early critic of the Iraq war, has died. He was 87. Graham’s family announced the death Tuesday in a statement […]

3 hours ago

Motorists travel under a wildlife crossing bridge spanning I-80 in Parleys Canyon on Tuesday, Oct. ...

Eric Cabrera

Park City group disappointed in UDOT’s wildlife crossing decision

A Park City advocacy group spent years trying to convince the Utah Department of Transportation to build a wildlife crossing on SR 224, between Kimball Junction and Park City. Now they are trying to figure out why UDOT decided to nix the idea.

4 hours ago

Kevin young named new BYU Basketball head coach....

Derrick Jones

BYU Basketball names new head coach

Brigham Young University has appointed Kevin Young as their new head coach of BYU Basketball following the departure of former head coach.

5 hours ago

tesla...

Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Tesla’s troubling 2024

The Cybertruck is STAINLESS steel. Right?

6 hours ago

FILE: Lani Williams and her mother, Noni Mirkovich, hold hands as they give an interview on Thursda...

Simone Seikaly

Bonneville International, KSL NewsRadio recognized for community service

Each year the National Association of Broadcasters recognizes community service projects which make a meaningful difference in their listeners lives.

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Hey Alexa, are you listening to me?