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Amazon Echo: A product to be worried about or not?

Amazon product concerns parents as it comes without necessary etiquette

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Amazon Echo. Image source Wikimedia commons

You shouldn’t worry if you forget your please and thank you. Alexa will put up with just about anything with tolerance. But while artificial intelligence technology can blow past such indignities, parents are still irked by their kids’ poor manners when interacting with Alexa, the assistant that lives inside the Amazon Echo.

“I’ve found my kids pushing the virtual assistant further than they would push a human,” says Avi Greengart, a tech analyst and father of five who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey. “[Alexa] never says ‘That was rude’ or ‘I’m tired of you asking me the same question over and over again.’” Perhaps she should, he thinks.

Alexa app. Image source Wikimedia commons
Alexa app. Image source Wikimedia commons

When Amazon released its internet-connected speaker in 2014, the world was puzzled. It was able to do work in a smart home by adding events to your calendar, summon an Uber, even tell knock-knock jokes. It became a very curious design. Google and Apple is reportedly designing their own version powered by Google home and Siri respectively.

Mimicking their parents, they quickly discover that if they start a sentence with “Alexa,” the speaker will perk up and (for the most part) do as they say. Amazon didn’t keep children in mind during the designing. It becomes child friendly even when the child does not know reading or any such commands.

Some of the questions Alexa can be asked are:

  • Alexa, tell me a knock-knock joke.
  • Alexa, how do you spell forest?
  • Alexa, what’s 17 times 42?

The commands given are usually simple and straightforward but doesn’t exactly reward niceties like “please.” For parents trying to drill good manners into their children, listening to their kids boss Alexa around can be of great concern. “One of the responsibilities of parents is to teach your kids social graces,” says Greengart, “and this is a box you speak to as if it were a person who does not require social graces.” It’s this combination that worries Hunter Walk, a tech investor in San Francisco. In a blog post, he described the Amazon Echo as “magical” while expressing fears it’s “turning our daughter into a raging asshole.”

Hanover Kurzweil, who lives in San Francisco, says Alexa had a hard time comprehending her four-year-old son when he tried summoning the speaker with “Awexa.” But after a month or two of working on his pronunciation, his l’s started ringing clear as a bell, she says.
Apple's Siri. Image source Wikimedia commons
Apple’s Siri. Image source Wikimedia commons

Not all parents are so worried about the implications of their kids’ mannerisms when interacting with a speaker, though. This is, after all, a “can that sits on a table,” says Holly Petersen, a mother of two who lives in Minnesota. They find ‘unintentional aggressiveness’ in the tone of her command. Though Petersen believes her children, ages five and seven, know the difference between bot and human. “It is important for my kids to be able to empathize with people and read emotions off people and be polite with people,” she says. But “Alexa doesn’t have feelings, and I don’t want her over-personified.”

Still, with the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence, a debate is emerging around how humans should treat bots. Mortensen argues that “you are worse off if you treat your machines in a demeaning kind of way.” Mortensen created the calendar-scheduling assistant called x.ai. He doesn’t correct them though since they “are beyond the age of where I teach them decency and courtesy.”

But other parents haven’t given up. Manu Kumar, a father of two and founder of investment firm K9 Ventures in Palo Alto, California, has attempted one tactic with his four-year-old with limited success. “I have told my son that if he doesn’t say ‘thank you’ or ‘please’ that Alexa will stop listening to him.”  He too believes that what matters is the importance of being nice. He says that if Alexa doesn’t care about how we talk to her, other people around us are going to experience how we interact with it.

People are longing for a kid or family mode where Alexa responds only after hearing the keyword. Of course, that would mean parents, too, would be beholden to these courtesies. Such a mode “would probably be good for us,” muses Hanover Kurzweil.

No matter what, an Amazon representative declined to agree to what these parents have to say. She also wrote an email saying “I think I’d like to use that with my daughter :)”
-by Vrushali Mahajan, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter-Vrushali Mahajan 
Related articles:

  • AJ Krish

    I personally believe that kids should say their pleases and thank you even if it is to a bot.It is how we behave to others that show the world who we are.I share the parent’s concerns.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    There should be a difference when bots talk to the children and when parents talk to them. You cannot expect the bots to parent your child in your desired way. Therefore you should be able to identify when the child needs you

  • devika todi

    the parents need to be more careful in this regard. they need to make sure that their kids know the difference when they are speaking to a robot and when they are speaking to a human.

  • AJ Krish

    I personally believe that kids should say their pleases and thank you even if it is to a bot.It is how we behave to others that show the world who we are.I share the parent’s concerns.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    There should be a difference when bots talk to the children and when parents talk to them. You cannot expect the bots to parent your child in your desired way. Therefore you should be able to identify when the child needs you

  • devika todi

    the parents need to be more careful in this regard. they need to make sure that their kids know the difference when they are speaking to a robot and when they are speaking to a human.

Next Story

Google launches three new apps for photography

The new photography applications are "Storyboard" (available on Android only), "Selfissimo!" (available on iOS and Android) and "Scrubbies" (available on iOS only).

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44th Anniversary of the birth of Hip Hop

San Francisco, Dec 12: Google has introduced three photography apps which are part of a new series that it has dubbed as photography “appsperiments”.

“We’re launching the first installment of a series of photography appsperiments: Usable and useful mobile photography experiences built on experimental technology. Our ‘appsperimental’ approach was inspired in part by ‘Motion Stills’,” the company wrote in a research blog late on Monday.

“‘Motion Stills’ is an app developed by researchers that converts short videos into cinemagraphs and time lapses using experimental stabilisation and rendering technologies,” Google added.

Google apps
Google introduces photography apps

The new photography applications are “Storyboard” (available on Android only), “Selfissimo!” (available on iOS and Android) and “Scrubbies” (available on iOS only).

The “Storyboard” app takes video clips and automatically pulls out six frames that it lays out in a comic book-style template.

“Selfissimo!” is an automated selfie photographer that snaps a black and white photograph each time the user poses.

“Scrubbies” lets the user easily manipulate the speed and direction of video playback to produce video loops that highlight actions, capture funny faces and replay moments.

The tech giant has also urged users to try out the new apps and provide feedback via the in-app feedback links. IANS

Next Story

Google gets the better of Facebook as top referral source for publishers

In 2016 Facebook tweaked its algorithm to prioritise posts from friends and family over publishers.

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Google has beaten Facebook to become publishers' main source of external page views over the course of 2017
Google has beaten Facebook to become publishers' main source of external page views over the course of 2017. VOA
  • Google webpage traffic increases considerably
  • Facebook went down by 26% in January as compared to last year
  • Video publishing feature might has add up to the Facebook traffic

San Francisco, Dec 12,2017: Google has beaten Facebook to become publishers’ main source of external page views over the course of 2017, a new data showed.

Google used to be the main source of referral traffic for web publishers. Then Facebook eclipsed it, ReCode reported late on Monday.

According to digital analytics company Parse.ly, Google sent more traffic than Facebook to publishers — Facebook sent 25 per cent less traffic to publishers in 2017, while Google increased its traffic by 17 per cent.

In January, Facebook provided nearly 40 per cent of publishers’ external traffic which is now down to 26 per cent.

Google web traffic
Google AMP feature has helped it to add up to the web traffic

Google, which started the year at 34 per cent, generated 44 per cent of the total traffic.

Parse.ly pointed out a number of factors for this turnaround.

In 2016 Facebook tweaked its algorithm to prioritise posts from friends and family over publishers.

Also, Facebook’s “Instant Articles” feature, where the service hosted some publishers’ content directly but promised to send more readers to the original site as well, has declined in importance, the analytics company found.

Since users can now publish videos directly on Facebook, this might have affected how many links to web stories publishers put on their Facebook pages.

Google’s “accelerated mobile pages” (AMP) feature, which also hosts publishers’ content directly on Google’s servers, became more important over the year.

AMP stories – typically from news publishers – are surfaced at the top of mobile search results as “Top Stories,” which drives clicks. (IANS)

Next Story

Indian Railways to use artificial intelligence

Earlier, railways used a manual maintenance system

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Railways to use AI
Artificial Intelligence will also reduce the probability of delays and accidents to a great extent. Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi. November 21, 2017:

Aiming to reduce the possibilities of signals failing, Indian Railways has undertaken remote condition monitoring of the system, a new approach for the national transporter, to predict failures through the effective use of Artificial Intelligence.

The Signalling system is vital for safe train operations and the railways completely depend on the health of its signalling assets along with real-time information.

Currently, the railways follow a manual maintenance system and adopt find-and-fix methods rather than predict-and-prevent approach.

“Now, we are introducing remote condition monitoring using non-intrusive sensors for continuous online monitoring of signals, track circuits, axle counters and their sub-systems of interlocking, power supply systems including the voltage and current levels, relays, timers,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with the project.

The system entails the collection of inputs on a pre-determined interval and sending this to a central location.

As a result, any flaws or problems in the signalling system would be detected on a real-time basis and rectified to avoid possible delays and mishaps.

The failure of signals is one of the major reasons for train accidents and delays.

Currently, remote monitoring of signalling is operational in Britain.

The system envisages data transfer through a wireless medium (3G, 4G and high-speed mobile) and data based on these inputs will be utilised, with help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), for predictive and prescriptive Big Data analytics.

This will enable prediction of signalling asset failures, automated self-correction and informed decisions on intervention strategies, said the official.

The railways have decided that trial is taken up in two sections of Western Railway and South Western Railway at Ahmedabad-Vadodara and Bengaluru-Mysuru.

Depending on the feedback, the system would gradually be extended to other sections. (IANS)