Amazon and Google voice assistants still struggle with accents

middle-aged man giving command to amazon alexa-powered echo speaker in living room

Evidence from a recent study by Washington Post found that the industry’s most popular voice assistants, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, are less successful at processing commands from people with strong accents.

Users’ grasp of English language could be perfect, but if you have an accent chances are Alexa and Google may struggle to do want you want…

The report from WP found that accuracy when processing commands went down by 4.2% percent for Spanish accents and 2.6% for those with Chinese accents, with those with an Indian accent additionally mildly affected.

Furthermore, it was found that Alexa and Google Assistant’s accuracy at processing commands worsened when dealing with a command relating to media playback – here, it was found that a Spanish accent recorded 79.9% accuracy rate, compared to 91.8% for an Eastern US accent (i.e. New York, Florida & Virginia).

A second investigation found that both voice assistants would frequently struggle to repeat information such as news stories if an accent wasn’t American and was English, for example – though it’s worth noting that each voice device has a certain degree of special programming for each market it’s been released in, these findings are still far from ideal.

It’s clear we’re still far from perfecting the voice control experience, and even Amazon and Google have both held up their hands to admit there is still work to be done. Both claim their AI technology is a work in progress and still needs to expand when it comes to understanding “certain speech patterns” and “certain accents” (Amazon).

Other voice-activated smart assistants such as Siri, Bixby and Cortana were not involved in the study, as well as a whole bunch of accents, but the report by Washington Post still signifies quite a pressing issue for those in charge of honing voice assistants to work on going forward.

Source: Washington Post