DIGITAL ASSISTANTS like Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri could prove to be a death knell to regional accents, according to new research.
Although natural speech patterns are getting better, recognition of regional voices, particularly strong accents such as Geordie or Glaswegian, are particularly difficult for machines to cope with.
The Life Science Centre in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne surveyed 536 visitors and found that of the 70 per cent of respondents who owned a device, 79 per cent had needed to tone down their accent or repeat themselves in more received pronunciation in order to be understood when giving voice commands.
Some of those questioned agreed that in the long term this could be a threat to the survival of regional accents.
The problem isn't confined to the UK and certain English speaking countries with strong accents, such as India and New Zealand (where she's probably called Elixer) could face similar issues.
Linda Conlon, chief executive of Life Science Centre said: "Ask anyone with a regional accent and they'll tell you the struggles of using automated voice recognition.
"The same people who decades ago were frustrated as teens trying to get cinema listings from an automated telephone system are now having the same issues with their smartphones or smart speakers - the technology has moved forward, but the inclusivity to cater for regional accents has not."
The concept is nothing new. Moviefone, the now-defunct cinema listings phone line, was often criticised for struggling with anything remotely regional and was even mocked in the Fox TV series Family Guy when a deaf user was unable to be understood by the automated assistant.
Back in the real world, and Samsung's Bixby was originally delayed outside Korea as the English setting couldn't understand any accent of English well enough.
At INQ Towers, we've discovered that Alexa is quite good at being sung to, though that's more of a problem than a solution.
Amazon said in a statement: "We've worked hard to ensure Alexa can understand multiple accents, and Alexa is designed to get smarter every day. As more people speak to Alexa, with various different accents, the more she adapts to speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences."
Google is also working on "improving sensitivity". Again, possibly not a good thing. μ
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