This was one of the busiest weeks in recent memory for AI assistants from Facebook, Google, and Amazon, as each of these companies began to roll out the new category of smart display devices with AI assistants, speakers, and a screen.
Oh and Facebook rolled out Portal and Portal+ devices for Facebook Messenger video chat and Alexa.
What’s absolutely astonishing and inescapable is that while each of the stories unfolded and tech giants made a pitch to be invited into your home, perpendicular events happened that could make you question whether these companies can protect your privacy or be trusted.
A reasonable person could have looked at Facebook on Monday and scoffed at the gall of rolling out a device for video chat in the home just days after leaving 50 million user accounts vulnerable and the personal data of 30 million users being stolen, but then Google had to shut down Google+ a day before its hardware event. And a day before the Echo Show and Echo Dot hit the market, we found out that Amazon has been using an algorithm in its hiring and recruitment processes that penalized applications with “women” in them for years.
It’s really hard to measure the impact of these sorts of things on adoption rates, but it brings to mind a Pricewaterhousecoopers survey released earlier this year that found that roughly 10 percent of people don’t own smart speakers due to privacy concerns.
Anyone reading this article has likely spoken with a family member or friend who refuses to use a smart speaker for these reasons, but it doesn’t seem like any revolt is underway. Smart speaker sales have grown steadily for some time now, and it doesn’t seem like this week will change that. But the continuing concern about how they are perceived could stifle innovation.
Consumer privacy concerns led Facebook to limit initial use cases for Portal, keeping out much of its knowledge of your social life, and it’s potentially why Portal did not debut with facial recognition software, as had initially been reported.
It’s also why Google says the Home Hub has no camera; however, I think there’s more to that story.
Trust or a desire to be seen as trustworthy will shape some parts of these devices, because these companies have to convince the world not just that they’re selling more than a smart speaker with a screen, but that they can be trusted.
The latest tech and AI, along with video partners like Hulu, will certainly help increase adoption of AI assistants, but trust is also a necessary ingredient. It’s what appears to be necessary for more experimentation and better experiences and could play a role in determining whether people allow them in their home..
Thanks for reading,
AI Staff Writer
P.S. Please enjoy this YouTube video from Berkeley AI researchers about training AI acrobatics from YouTube videos. You can read more in this VB article on the paper released Tuesday.
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