Talking to a computer can feel liberating — as anyone who received an Amazon Alexa or Google Home device for Christmas can attest — but only until you ask the wrong question and the machine plays dumb.
Advances in speech recognition, which lie behind the “natural” feel of voice assistants like Alexa, number among the biggest breakthroughs in AI over the past five years. Like image recognition, which has followed a similar trajectory, this has given computers human-like powers of perception. It may also have opened the way to profound changes in working life, from automating call centres to replacing radiologists.
In some ways, “the effect is very exciting,” says Dave Ferrucci, an artificial intelligence expert who led the development of IBM’s Watson AI system.
But while the ability to talk to machines has brought “cool interfaces”, there is a serious problem: “There’s no significant language understanding there.”
Read more: Financial Times