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On Tuesday, I FaceTimed my mom. During one part of our conversation, the Alexa back at home chimed in and started talking. This reminded me of our seminar discussion and showed me how the Internet of Things is beginning to play out in the modern world. My mom also told me how earlier in the week, Alexa kept talking while she was FaceTiming one of my brothers. This situation makes me wonder what role Alexa or other personal assistants will come to play in the Internet of Things. Will personal assistants be able to communicate between neighbors? Between states? Between countries? I find it interesting how these personal assistants are starting to replace the tactile remote control that has come to be our phones. However, if we go back a few years, it is cool to see how cell phones developed into sensors that we now use to record a plethora of data.

Analytically speaking, cell phones know the individual they belong to better than the individual knows oneself. Cell phones can track the day to day patterns of the individual such as the places one goes, paths one takes, people one comes into contact with, apps visited most, etc. This raises both ethical and political questions about what information people should be able to access. An interesting thought experiment I had during discussion was thinking about how our country would be different if cell phones were government property. As citizens, we would still have the choice whether or not to have a phone, but most likely we would choose to have one because of the odd pleasures and ease of having a phone. But as government property, all the data collected on our phones would be accessible and allowed to be manipulated by different agencies of the government. I wonder if this would lead way to thwarting attacks to the country, but I also wonder what privacy issues would arise. Evidence from phones would also be able to be used in court cases.

The Internet of Things concept does seem exciting to me, but at the same time I think some of the “things” are borderline absurd such as the “smart” saltshaker. With all these new “smart” objects again comes the issue of security and privacy. Convenience and instant gratification will probably outweigh security once again as we have seen repeated time after time such as with social media.

Another part of our discussion that I found interesting was talking about companies that aggregate information and data about users in order to target products to the individual. This seems sneaky, but also a very smart way to target a user. I can also see useful implications of this on the developer end because the analytics of how a client uses a site can help developers know what parts of the site to target with information, ads, and what parts of the site to work on. I am looking forward to talking about AI in our coming seminar!

Hey, Alexa, publish my latest post.

2 thoughts on “Hey, Alexa, publish my latest post.

  • October 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Great questions, great observations.

    I’m curious to see how much of the user interface to various devices moves to voice and away from keyboards, mice, or the like. I’ve avoided these for the most part, but I know people who really like them. I’m just concerned about what happens when you have multiple devices that use voice for the interface– how do they know that you are talking to them rather than someone else (I’d love to see how people who use, say, both Alexa and Siri deal with this). Maybe what we really want is one voice-recognition system that can deal with all of the other connected devices, but then we will be back to the remote-control wars– everyone agreeing that one system will be best, and everyone wanting it to be the one they control.

    The privacy concerns also worry me. We will talk a lot more about that in the coming weeks…

    • October 8, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      I still can’t tell if my wife is talking to me or to our son when she says, “Hey, hon.” We are both well trained, however, as we both answer. I’m not sure it will be much better in the future between smart, voice-activated devices and humans, but Amazon (and I’m sure the other companies) has handled the which-device-should-answer question. On the following website, Amazon says, “If you have more than one device using the same wake word, Alexa responds intelligently from the device you’re closest to with ESP (Echo Spatial Perception), and performs the requested task.” My guess is that this is an advance on the situation with just humans, because the Amazon device’s ESP can be more accurate than the spatial processing that my son and I do with my wife’s statements.

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