While some people are underwhelmed by virtual assistants, others want to be alone with them

A report on the state of the virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa has revealed users are underwhelmed by their capabilities and feel as though the technology has been oversold.

The report, produced by media company Mindshare, reveales that people who use virtual assistants are unimpressed by the current sophistication of the technology and feel they don’t match up to versions seen in TV and films, such as HAL 9000, Iron Man’s JARVIS or the androids form Channel Four’s Humans.

“People want voice assistants to show greater understanding, be able to initiate conversations, and preemptively solve problems. Of regular Alexa users, 46% would like back-and-forth dialogue to get to better answers.

“This is about knowing preferences, remembering past behaviors, and delivering better service as a result,” reads Mindshare’s report.

Image courtesy of iphonedigital. Featured image courtesy of Channel Four

Despite some people being unimpressed by the current state of virtual assistants, other users appeared to be a little too happy with theirs.

Of the respondents who use virtual assistants regularly, over a third (37%) said that they love their voice assistant so much that they wish it were a real person.

But even more surprisingly, more than a quarter of regular voice assistant users said they have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant.

“It is interesting, when something acts naturally and human back to you, how much we imbue it with sentience, with human personality,” said cofounder and chief technology officer at PullString, Martin Reddy.

Although some users are, a little too, enamoured by their virtual assistants, another 44% of regular users said that they were worried about companies listening to the conversations they have with their voice assistant.

While Mindshare did acknowledge privacy concerns were a real concern for some users, the company said it doesn’t necessarily mean that people are willing to modify their behaviour or stop using virtual assistants altogether.

Mindshare’s report Speak Easy: The Future Answers to You is available here.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC