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Hey Google! Do you understand what I’m saying?

Voice-recognition software and smart assistants are becoming life (and energy) savers, but not all of us get as great an experience as others. Particularly those for whom English is a second language, who have speech impediments, or just plain mumble! Here in blighty, the good ol’ BBC is looking to uphold our weird and wonderful accents in a field largely catered toward ‘American English’ (whatever that is!) They plan to launch a rival smart assistant (‘Beeb’) that will supposedly understand even the most tricky regional British accent and obscurest patter. And this is not as out-of-the-blue as it may seem – YouGov reported that smart speakers are two-thirds less accurate for those who are not “white and male”. This is partly because speakers are largely developed by men (diversity in tech rears its ugly head yet again) and partly because AI finds deeper vocal tones easier to understand. Luckily Mozilla has a pretty cool solution for this: a crowd sourced data set of diverse voices. Common Voice aims to revitalise voice-recognition tech with entries from a diverse range of contributors. Feel free to contribute yourself (remember to add your demographic data), we certainly did! Maybe you’ll hear the dulcet tones of the Work in Startups team in your exploration?

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