Alexa Needs a Human-Assist--People Listening to Echo Recordings

Apr 16, 2019


Have you been asking your Alexa embarrassing or personal questions thinking that the only one who will know is an AI algorithm on the other end? Bloomberg reports there might be more than just a machine listening: “Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people around the world to help improve the Alexa digital assistant powering its line of Echo speakers. The team listens to voice recordings captured in Echo owners’ homes and offices. The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands.”

For some, it might be a comfort to know that AI still needs human intervention to work well. “They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon’s Bucharest office…” according to the Bloomberg article. For others, this may be the privacy straw that broke Alexa’s back.

While many of the workers report working on and hearing mostly mundane utterances, there are outliers: “Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word—or come across an amusing recording.”


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