The rise of speech recognition
The rapidly growing voice recognition and profiling industry offers companies unparalleled insight into the behavior and habits of their consumers. According to a report by Global Market Insights, the global market for speech recognition technology – which is used in cell phones, smart speakers, autonomous vehicles, and even call centers for customer service – will reach approximately $ 7 billion by 2026.
Little is known, however, about how the companies leading the voice recognition fees will use our data.
Joseph Turow is a writer and professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication. He has been writing about how the marketing industry tracks consumers for decades. His latest book is “The Voice Catchers: How Marketers Listen In to Exploit Your Feelings, Your Privacy and Your Wallet”.
He spoke to Coda Story about how speech recognition and profiling will turn advertising on its head.
This conversation appears in this week’s episode of Coda Streams.
Coda Story: If I go about my daily life – go to business, take the subway – what kind of speech recognition technology will I come across?
Joseph Turow: Most of what happens in speech recognition happens between you and your phone. But also remember that people are talking to their cars. They communicate with 800 number contact centers and a lot of speech recognition and profiling is done in those places.
Coda Story: We encounter speech recognition and speech profiling more and more frequently in our daily lives, especially when we think of relatively inexpensive virtual assistants or loudspeakers such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home. You can buy a smart speaker for under $ 50 on Amazon or Google. What risk of surveillance is hidden behind this convenience and affordability?
JT: Much of what you’ve just described is what I call seductive surveillance. It means seducing people with the technology while hiding its surveillance aspects. For example, Amazon Prime Day is coming up soon. You will be able to buy these Amazon speakers like Alexa or Echo Dot at incredibly affordable prices. And Google is doing it cheap too, mostly to get people used to that this is a part of life, you know, getting up in the morning and saying, “Alexa, what’s the weather like?” So it really is an era of seductive surveillance.
Coda Story: This industry is developing very quickly. In your book, you write about some patents that give a clue as to where voice profiling is going. What did you notice?
JT: There’s a really interesting Amazon patent out there. You actually have a cartoon. A woman comes into her apartment and says: “Sniffâ¦ Alexa, give me a recipe for dinner. âAlexa says,â You sound like you’ve got a cold. How about some chicken soup? “According to Amazon, Alexa got this idea based on the sound of her voice and various pitches and changes in sound. She says,” No thanks. “And Alexa says,” How about I order some cough drops that are inside half an hour? “Of course, Amazon owns a pharmacy.
Another technology patented by Google is to place microphones in your home. It tracks what people are doing and for how long and at what time of the day. And in some cases, like this one, the computer system may actually shut down certain things. So if you think, “Geez the kids are playing too many video games,” Google will hear where they are, find out what they’re doing, and if they keep doing it for too long, turn it off.
The patents point to a multitude of situations where technology listens to what we say and companies and marketers benefit without us knowing where this is going and without controls.
Coda Story: You mentioned call centers with 800 numbers earlier. It sounds like phone customer service is a place where a lot of these voice profiles take place. Can you tell us a little about that?
JT: That’s at the top. And I’d argue, in part because people don’t even know about it. Now, when you dial an 800 number, your software can – supposedly, supposedly – recognize your emotions. In some cases, you will be referred to a representative who the company has determined to be better at dealing with people with such emotions. Or, they connect your shopping history to what they know about your voice personality from previous interactions, and then share with certain types of people and give them ideas on what types of discounts you could get based on your sound and company history.
Coda Story: This speech recognition technology is widely used in marketing. Is there a risk that it will penetrate other areas of our lives?
JT: It’s not just the risk. It’s a specific activity. We get used to this idea, and then it starts to slosh.
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