Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Amazon’s Alexa could soon recognize users by their voices

(credit: Adam Bowie)

Amazon's Alexa may be about to get smarter. According to a report from Time, the online retailer is working on voice identification software for Alexa that would allow the service to identify who in a household is speaking to it. "People familiar with Amazon's Alexa strategy" claim this feature has been under development since 2015, and the challenge now is in strategically integrating it into Alexa devices like Amazon Echo.

The report claims that the feature is internally called Voice ID, and it would match a person's voice to a prerecorded "voice print" to identify who is talking. The primary account holder could limit specific actions to only those matching a specific voice print. For example, any voice-made purchases could be limited to parents in a household so children don't go on voice-enabled shopping sprees.

Alexa and other voice assistants including Apple's Siri, Google's Assistant, and Microsoft's Cortana all essentially do the same thing: they respond to voice commands and can answer questions like "How's the weather?" or "What's on my calendar today?" However, none can decipher who is doing the talking—and in homes where a device is linked to multiple accounts, that could become problematic. Amazon Alexa can already swatch between different user accounts, but the speaker must say "Switch accounts" or use the Alexa app to do so.

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