AI News, Apple's next challenge is to make Siri smarter as it plays catch artificial intelligence

Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri will get smarter this year. Here's how.

In the video demo, someone asked Alexa about local movie times, bought tickets, locked down a restaurant reservation and scheduled an Uber -- without having to say Alexa multiple times.  Amazon also has an award competition called the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge, encouraging colleges to design social robots that help develop Alexa's natural language capabilities.

The voice assistant is patient as you go through the steps: You can ask it to go back to a previous step, repeat the current step and even ask for the next ingredient, how much of it you need, and what the conversions are, if any.  And, at I/O 2019, Google's annual developer conference, the company introduced a feature where you can say 'stop' to turn off an alarm without having to remember to say, 'Hey, Google, stop' in your just-awakened grogginess.  The tech giant also introduced something called 'Duplex on the Web' at I/O 2019, a follow-up to the Duplex software that would put a human-sounding voice AI on the other end of the phone line to assist you with booking appointments, reservations and more.

HomeKit supports, she typically falls behind when it comes to answering general questions and understanding natural-language queries.  Fortunately, the HomePod got a few updates at WWDC 2019 that might help improve things, including the ability to recognize multiple voices, transfer audio from your iPhone to the HomePod and play live radio on iHeart Radio, TuneIn and Radio.com.  Alexa and Google Assistant already have multi-user voice recognition, meaning they can distinguish between my voice and my co-workers' (some of the time, at least).

Google's 'stop' alarm feature shows a similar trend to reduce reliance on the wake words or phrases and allow the conversation to flow more naturally.  And while we didn't hear much about Duplex's voice-based software at this year's I/O, Duplex on the Web could streamline a ton of tedious web-chores that I'd just as soon skip.  Even Apple is stepping up with its new voice recognition feature and Neural Text to Speech software, designed to make Siri sound more human.  There's a definite theme here, and it's all tied to streamlining conversations and making them sound more like natural dialogue.

I'm all for losing some of those repeated wake words to streamline conversations, but am creeped out by the idea of AI sounding so human that we won't be able to distinguish between voice assistants and people -- and I'm definitely not alone.  It's an interesting time for the smart home voice control, with three major players competing for supremacy.

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