What to do if your Smart Assistant doesn’t recognize your voice

The smart assistant is one of the coolest innovations of the past decade. An AI-powered device that can turn on lights, order food and let you know traffic conditions – what’s not to like? It’s almost like Rosie are from The Jetsons live in your house. Unless perhaps you have a strong voice.

A 2018 article from The Washington Post titled “Emphatic space“Highlighted the issue well. If you have a “normal” accent, such as a neutral American accent, the smart assistants will understand you without a problem. On the other hand, Alexa is less likely to understand someone using “y’all” on a regular basis. Same goes for any heavy accent.

Thankfully, there are several ways to approach the problem. Smart assistants use machine learning to adapt and improve over time, so none of these solutions is an immediate fix. But they will improve how responsive your smart assistant is to voice commands.

Speak slowly

It sounds cliché, but speaking more slowly has a profound impact on how efficiently smart assistants can recognize and process your requests.

Speaking slowly means you’re more likely to pronounce words clearly, but it also gives the smart assistant time to process what you say. You can say full sentences with your smart assistant, but the machine will look for keywords that indicate the answer to return based on a variety of factors.

If speaking slowly doesn’t help, try narrowing down your request. For example, you can get the current temperature and forecast by saying “Alexa, weather.” If you reduce what you say to just a few words, your smart assistant has a better chance of understanding you.

Avoid colloquial terms

Every region of the world has certain words and phrases that they use to describe common, everyday things. For example, the southern states of the United States tend to refer to all forms of soda as “Coke”. Ask any information about Coke to a smart assistant that will return information about The Coca-Cola Company.

Be specific in how you phrase the question. Avoiding colloquial terms and sticking to officially recognized vocabulary will reduce the chances of the smart assistant misunderstanding you.

Find out if your Smart Assistant offers Accent as an option

The intelligent assistant is trained and programmed to recognize a variety of voice patterns; In most cases, manufacturers include the types of accents that they are easiest to hear under normal conditions.

Users have reported that swapping the Language setting from English (US) to English (UK) resulted in better responses for users with a British accent.

Amazon Alexa provides a British accent to users with the following accents:

  • Canadian
  • Indian
  • Spanish
  • Mexican
  • Italian
  • Australian
  • New Zealand

On the other hand, Google Home offers British accents for the following speakers:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Irish
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • UK
  • USA

If you speak English with any one of these accents, switch your device to the corresponding language option. Your smart assistant can get to know you better if you understand.

Change language

There’s no reason someone yes speak English when using the smart assistant. Both Amazon Alexa and Google Home have multiple language options. If you find out that your assistant doesn’t understand your accent when speaking English, find out if your native language is an option.

Spell everything

Some smart assistants (most notably Apple’s Siri) will let users spell what they want. This feature allows users that the system may not understand to request information.

While this isn’t a perfect solution given the amount of time it takes to spell words with enough time between each letter for the assistant to recognize, it’s a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, no smart device today excels at recognizing Anglo-Asian accents. Their main areas of focus are the United States and other English-speaking countries, but there is hope. Even the current versions of the smart assistant are a huge leap forward from the original version and all have better language recognition than before.

In time, smart assistants will be advanced enough to identify any spoken command regardless of language or voice.

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