Feeds

Smartphones may soon listen in on you while they sleep

Advantage: hands-free convenience. Disadvantage: g'bye, privacy

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Your smartphone may soon be able to hear and respond to you even when it's in sleep mode – that is, if the combined efforts of engineers at speech-recognition leader Nuance Communications and chipset makers succeed in their goal.

Nuance CTO Vlad Sejnoha told Technology Review that his company is collaborating with "a number of" chipmakers that are "thinking very actively" about how to pull off passive, sleepy-smartphone listening without inordinate battery drain.

The unnamed chip companies have certainly picked the right partner. Nuance dominates the speech-recognition software market, not only with apps such as Dragon Naturally Speaking for Windows and Dragon Dictate for Mac, but also by presumably providing the backend for Apple's much-maligned but reportedly (by Apple at least) now-improved Siri and the online-only voice recognition in OS X Mountain Lion.

Smartphones – both iPhones and Android-based handsets – can already respond to spoken queries and speech-to-text chores, of course, but Sejnoha wants to take the next step: having the phone respond without having to first be turned on. "Just turning on the device is part of the problem, right?", he rhetorically asked Technology Review. "So we're going to be smoothing that out, eliminating those problems as well."

Here at The Reg, we foresee a host of problems cropping up between Sejnoha and his vision. There are, of course, the engineering problems of how to create a listening system that uses a miniscule amount of power and how to filter voice out of background noise in usage situations less controlled than Dragon's rather stringent requirements.

More problematic, we believe, will be not only convincing users that it's a good thing to have their smartphones listening in on their every word, but also that those words aren't being used to develop personal profiles that could be of great value to marketeers and advertising targeters.

Your humble Reg reporter, for one, would find it intrusive if his smartphone, after having listened in on an earlier conversation about gołąbki or kluski śląskie recipes, might chime in unbidden with advertiser-supported Polish restaurant suggestions when the missus and he are discussing where to drop in for dinner.

Not to mention the phone intruding on some, shall we say, more personal moments when it's sitting on his nightstand. ®

Bootnote

A personal endorsement: if you had read anything with this reporter's byline in recent months, it was likely written using Dragon Dictate for Mac. After herniating a disk (between C7 and T1, for you spinal geeks) in – of all places – the Galápagos Islands in mid-April, he cranked out articles by speaking into a Blue Snowball attached to his trusty Mac until having recovered from surgery enough to again use a keyboard at the beginning of this month. Trusty, obedient beast, that Dragon.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
'Serious flaws in the Vertigan report' says broadband boffin
Report 'fails reality test' , is 'simply wrong' and offers ''convenient' justification for FTTN says Rod Tucker
This flashlight app requires: Your contacts list, identity, access to your camera...
Who us, dodgy? Vast majority of mobile apps fail privacy test
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.