Our voices are rapidly becoming a dominant way in which we interact with machines. And yet, the current state of speech recognition is not meeting most of our expectations. The tech giants are dominating this space, and recent reports of them hiring people to listen into our conversations points to the privacy (and other) risks of having them control the mode we interact with machines. Also current speech recognition technologies and voice assistants exclude a lot of people, struggling with accents and pitch, and leaving out the majority of languages people speak as their mother tongues.
One answer to this is a collective approach. Data is critical – so how might we rally people and companies to pool data in a commons, protecting privacy and optimising for diversity? The technology still needs to evolve, so how might we gather the creativity of designers, engineers and social scientists to work together on platforms everyone can then use and deploy? Mozilla, the not-for-profit organisation behind the open-source web browser Firefox, is beginning to catalyse such a collective approach — will you join us?
George Roter is Mozilla’s Director, Open Innovation Programs. Based in Toronto, he leads a variety of company-wide initiatives to drive innovation through bringing together partners and mobilizing tens of thousands of contributors. Part of his role involves driving Mozilla’s efforts to democratize voice technologies through open data and software. Prior to Mozilla, George was co-founder and CEO of Engineers Without Borders Canada, a leading innovation, advocacy and talent development NGO.
George is an Ashoka Fellow, was named as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, and was awarded the Action Canada Fellowship on public policy. He has been recognized with five honorary Doctorate degrees, along with completing a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Waterloo. He has also been presented with the Meritorious Service Cross (Civil) by Canada’s Governor General.