News today about a Burger King ad that takes over your Google Home speaker is a sign of things to come. In the ad, an employee triggers the speaker to read a description of the Whopper burger on Wikipedia (which may have been altered by an employee of the company). It worked, although you have to have the volume turned up in the ad and Google moved quickly to attempt to shut down the trigger phrase.
It made me wonder — in what other ways could voicebots become more annoying over time (or even dangerous)?
Here are a few that comes to mind, but if you think of any more, let us know.
1. Adding product placement
Google came under fire for what seemed like an ad for Beauty and the Beast recently, which the Google Assistant bot mentioned as part of the My Day summary. In a statement, Google said it was not an ad but an experiment that maybe didn’t work out. However, if voicebots start monetizing their assistance with ads, it will hang like a dark cloud.
2. Controlling your smart home
Bots today will respond to any voice — not just your own. That’s a problem in my own house. A friend was over recently and told the Alexa bot to close my garage door by voice. Fortunately, I was standing right next to him, but it made me wonder what would happen if a thief had access to my front door, webcams, and other connected home gadgets. Both Amazon and Google appear to be working on unique voice signatures, but in a world where anyone in shouting distance can control Alexa, that means the ability to control security systems, locks, and many other IoT devices.
3. Picking sides
Voicebots are programmed by humans, in case you were wondering. That means someone is deciding what to say when you ask about President Trump or the refugee crisis. For now, many of the answers are provided by Wikipedia (which is not exactly always 100 percent accurate), although some are provided by Google or Bing. Will there be a “conservative” voicebot someday? Or one designed by fanatics? Who knows.
4. Suggesting certain products
Speaking of a voicebot point of view — I’m not sure I always trust the information provided by Alexa. I want to believe the bot is not partial to the products and services sold through Amazon, but that’s likely a false assumption. When I tried to order a USB cable just now, the bot didn’t mention any specific manufacturers, price ranges, or (obviously) a product sold at Best Buy. Instead, it suggested an item from my Amazon order history. That saves time, but it’s also a faster way to provide revenue for Amazon without as much customization or choices.
5. Making me crash
Today, voicebots like Google Assistant and Apple Siri can run in your car. They are distracting enough, but what if devious developers figure out how to emit a piercing siren or somehow feed directions to my car that send me into harm’s way? It wouldn’t take much to make the voicebots in my car just a bit more distracting, annoying, or even dangerous.