Sensory’s new voice assistants do not sacrifice your privacy or send data to the cloud

If you are worried about your voice assistant listening in all the time, then Sensory’s new private voice UI may suit you.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor on

If you have held off buying any voice assistant as you are worried about them listening to far more than they let on, then you can finally enjoy your own custom voice assistant with the level of privacy you want.

Deep learning voice AI assistants are appearing in everything from kitchen appliances to twerking teddy bears. But are people comfortable with always-listening devices in their homes?

Although 80 million US households do intend to buy a smart home device, adoption of smart speakers remains low with under 50% of respondents actually owning one.

But does everyone actually need the 'world-at-your-feet' AI generalist, internet-based voice assistant? With over one in three feeling that voice assistants are harmful for safety these devices have a lot of trust issues to overcome.

Now Santa Clara, CA-based voice AI company Sensory has announced its custom voice assistant that delivers total privacy for its users. This voice assistant does not even need an internet connection.

One of the first devices to use the Sensory voice assistant is a new voice-enabled Farberware microwave oven that features a custom, private voice UI. The technology uses a custom domain specific voice assistant that runs on a Linux Rockchip RK3308 and can understand over 150 commands.

You can ask the microwave 'Voice Genie' to open the door, or cook something, specify a time to cook, reheat or defrost. All commands are processed on the device so you do not need to connect the microwave to your Wi-Fi – or to the cloud.

The Sensory NLU (Natural Language Understanding) engine looks for "intents'' within a limited vocabulary domain which makes a lot of sense for custom devices.

You are hardly likely to ask the microwave oven what the weather is going to be like, or ask it to check your email, or calendar -- so why would a voice assistant need that extra capability?

The chance of being misunderstood is less than an off-the-shelf assistant which listens for a huge range of context words that would be meaningless to any device which is waiting for the simple command to defrost a pizza.

Todd Mozer, CEO at Sensory, said: "People love the convenience of mainstream voice assistants, but privacy, accuracy, complicated setup, and connectivity issues continue to be a growing concern among users. These concerns have intensified the need for custom private voice assistants".

Custom voice assistants that are trained for specific domains such as washing machines, toasters, microwave ovens, robot vacuums, and lawnmowers could perform more accurately than generalist voice assistants.

Devices such as Siri, or Alexa have to search through their entire knowledge base to give you a reasonably accurate answer to whatever questions you might ask.

Sensory said that most of its customers are brands wishing to give their customers voice controlled devices, but do not want to give up their data to the cloud.

If you want to own one of these voice controlled microwave ovens, the Faberware FM11 VABK microwave is available for under $250 on Amazon at the moment.

Should your robot vacuum have to be connected to the cloud to work? No it shouldn't. Once configured through the app you should be able to control it if your internet connection fails.

This should be true of other voice-controlled devices that have no reason at all to connect to the internet, spewing data for anyone to collect.

Expect to see more private voice assistants popping up in other household appliances very soon.

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