According companions, opponents claim that use of

According to NPR and Edison Research, one in six US adults, or 39 million people, own a voice-activated speaker; this number is steadily increasing, even faster than the demand for smartphones and tablets. In the past few years, Amazon alone has sold more than 10 million of its artificial intelligence powered virtual in-home assistants called the Echo. Although these robots are capable of performing many tasks, such as solving crimes and entertaining young children, their popularity has caused many owners to express concerns over privacy. These artificial intelligence robots and devices will most likely become an essential part of daily life due to their portability and practicality. While proponents of smart home devices argue that these voice-activated virtual assistants increase efficiency, solve crimes, and serve as helpful companions, opponents claim that use of smart devices has led to social interaction problems and privacy issues, which violate one’s First and Fourth Amendment rights. Not only have the various abilities of smart home devices intrigued buyers and users, but the convenience of the robots has enabled users to complete multiple tasks with a single device. Eliminating the need for different gadgets to turn off lights, monitor homes while owners are away, and answer questions, these robots have impressed users with the diversity of tasks they are able to complete. At $899, Jibo, one of the newest and most advanced robots is able to recognize faces, take photos, choreograph dance moves that correspond to sentence structure, recognize voice, and detect sound while also having features including a touch screen and a speaker from which Jibo’s responses to questions and comments are emitted. Jibo, like many other robots, was created with a lively personality, designed by its creators. This device has quickly risen to fame over the past year due to the efficient home environment that it has created. The Google Home and Amazon Echo, although not as advanced or expensive as Jibo, are examples of other voice-activated speakers that have risen to popularity in the past year. These relatively inexpensive speakers cost $20 to $130 and are able to turn off lights, answer questions, give suggestions, set reminders, and serve as virtual home assistants and consultants. One of the most popular Christmas gifts of 2017, the Amazon Echo has caught the interest of adults, teens, and even children. Besides the Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Jibo, the Apple Watch, Nike+ smart shoes, Snap Spectacles, and even Samsung’s Family Hub smart refrigerator are just a few more of the many smart devices which have emerged in the past few years. Due to the increased interest in these virtual assistants, experts believe that life in the future will be dependent on these handy robots, making them essential parts of our lives.These smart home devices bring with them many advantages and can not only make life more convenient and leisurely, but also potentially healthier. Cynthia Breazeal, the founder of the robot, Jibo, believes that Jibo will reduce screen addiction by forcing people to take their eyes off the screen of a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and interact with others in the room. Technology has expanded over the past few years to the point where many experts believe that our interaction with technology is too pervasive, and Breazeal believes a social robot “will actually be liberating,” forcing people to take a break from screens and stay in the real, physical, social world instead of interacting with a flat screen. Already a critical issue caused by technology, screen addiction has worried many parents, doctors, and educators. A robot that forces users to take a break from the screens and connect with others in person could decrease the severity of this concern. Experts predict that another potential benefit of these robots and speakers is that they may be helpful caretakers of the young and the elderly. Robots could monitor the health and safety of the elderly and help the elderly in day to day life. The ability to leave elderly alone without having to worry about their safety will be beneficial to family members and caretakers, who would no longer have to continually worry about those who may need constant attention. These devices could also entertain children and help them complete homework, acting as virtual nannies or tutors. Being able to entertain young children for hours, these devices may allow parents to leave their children at home alone while working or running errands. Although children and elderly shouldn’t be able to be left alone with these robots for extensive periods of time, the convenience of having the option of a handy babysitter or monitoring device will without doubt be valuable. Artificial intelligence devices have also solved, and are predicted to solve, many crimes. For example, in 2015, a woman was found shot dead in her Connecticut house. Her husband claimed that an intruder had attacked them, but the Fitbit the woman was wearing showed that she had actually been walking around the house at that time. With this new information, police were able to deduce that the husband had committed murder. This crime, along with many others, has proved that artificial intelligence is quickly approaching a point where it will be able to provide information to solve crimes with data that is being collected daily, a scary but incredible thought. Although these devices can be extremely useful, there are also many risks to owning smart home devices. One risk is that children may not have enough interaction with humans to develop empathy. According to NPR, many children’s perception of Amazon’s Alexa speaker is very different from that of adults. Young children may think that Alexa has feelings, and some even believe that she is a person living inside a cylindrical speaker. To children, the Amazon Alexa doesn’t seem any different from a pet or another person; to them, Alexa seems alive. Adults also treat robots differently from people in that they are not necessarily polite while talking to the devices. At an age in which they observe their parents’ behavior in order to learn how to interact with not only the devices, but also other people, young children will be paying close attention to how their parents interact with the virtual assistant, patterning their behavior and actions. Although the Amazon Alexa and Google Home may seem to be simply luxurious conveniences, always at one’s beck and call, there’s a catch: the devices are always listening to the owner’s conversations and are sometimes even recording them, a potential intrusion of one’s privacy. In order to “wake up” when the keyword “Alexa” or “Google” is spoken, these virtual assistants need to constantly be listening; however, according to Amazon and Google, conversations are not recorded until the cue word is said. Once the device is activated, it begins to record audio clips of conversation; the files are then sent to a server, where the information is analyzed, a response is created, and the reply is sent back to the device. Although companies assure customers about the security of the audio clips, many users still express concern about the possibility of hacked or stolen files. Amazon, Google, and other companies such as Nest and Ring, companies who have created home security devices, are among the companies targeted with concerns of privacy. Some computer users have even resorted to covering up their cameras on their devices due to apprehension of a hacker watching all of their actions. Many hesitant users are disturbed by the risk of the photos taken of houses and family members ending up on the Internet or hackers obtaining information through the robots in the house, which listen to all conversations. Acting like trusted friends and home assistants, users may become compelled to place excessive confidence into robots. One problem is that if their device is hacked, users may not be aware of this until it is too late, due to their irrefutable trust in the robot and the delay in notification that may occur if a breach in security is detected. As robots constantly collect data about our conversations, schedule, and interests, sending the information to faraway servers where it is carefully analyzed, these devices will become more knowledgeable about customers’ homes and personal life than users themselves. An example of the true security risk of these devices occurred when British security researcher Mark Barnes recently revealed his ability to turn an Amazon Echo into a wiretap in several minutes with just a few simple steps. Barnes installed malware onto an Amazon Echo so that the device silently streamed audio to his faraway server, leaving no trace. Barnes demonstrated that these smart devices are extremely vulnerable to hackers, thus inciting additional apprehension regarding the devices’ security. By simply following a few steps, anyone could transform a helpful device into a malware while the owner is not watching. These dangers and uncertainties of smart home devices have forced some buyers to rethink their decision of purchasing a robot. There have been many cases and crimes involving smart devices and companies’ reluctancy to hand over audio recordings or collected data taken by the robots and speakers. In one murder case, Fitbit data from a user’s smart watch was utilized to deduce that the victim’s husband had murdered his wife, despite the fact that the man said an intruder had attacked the couple in their house. In another murder case, an Amazon Echo was found near the scene of the crime, sparking curiosity among officials. After finding this device, law enforcement requested that Amazon hand over all information and recordings that might have been related to the murder case, believing that strange questions or statements were made to the Echo. Amazon originally did not hand over recordings, arguing that doing so would be a violation of one’s First Amendment protections, but they eventually gave in after the defendant gave consent. Although in this scenario, the defendant complied to the government’s demands without question, many other users and customers may not approve of such actions as easily. Many companies, reluctant to hand over information and expose clients’ privacy, find themselves in a deadlock situation on whether or not to hand over recordings; however, in many instances, they will be required to do so. This situation will, and has, made customers extremely uncomfortable, thus making some think twice about their decision to purchase a smart home device. Proven useful in various different scenarios, the action of gathering data from the artificial intelligence device has been critical to solving crimes, but is also an example of a potential breach in users’ constitutional rights. Although the data collected by the smart devices may be helpful to solving many crimes, providing the data to law officials may worry many customers and citizens of the United States. Although smart home devices have the possibility of being incredibly useful and helpful devices, there are also many risks that customers must assume by using them. The smart home device production, headed by Amazon and Google, is predicted to continue to steadily increase over the next few years, gaining popularity from around the world. In the future, robots may be an integral part of human lives; devices will have the ability to solve crimes, complete tasks, and even serve as caretakers; however, users must make sure that these artificial intelligence devices don’t become instruments used to gain control of and misuse the data that is collected by them. Supporters of these devices argue their ability to reduce screen addiction, serve as caretakers, and solve crimes are benefits, but others worry about their influence on young children and privacy issues. In order to construct a successful appliance, companies must create solutions to increase privacy and security to protect the consumers while buyers must limit the time people, especially children, spend with the devices as interest in these unique products increases. Although in need of slight tweaks and modifications, this new industry of artificial intelligence personal assistants will create an entirely different world in the future, making life much more efficient and productive.

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