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Posts about research, open source and technologies.

Voice Assistants 101: A Look at How Conversational AI Works

The prevalence of conversational AI in daily life is growing rapidly. Smart speakers and smartphone voice assistants have become normal parts of how many people look up information, perform tasks, and organize their schedules. But how exactly does this technology work? In this post, we'll walk through the typical steps a voice assistant takes to fulfill a spoken command and some of the software components that make it possible. We'll also take a look at some of the ways in which a voice assistant can provide real value for users.

Step 1: Hearing the Wake Word

A voice assistant needs to know when to start listening for a command. A wake word like "Alexa" or "OK Google" activates the assistant and serves as a cue that a command will follow. But how does a voice assistant know that the wake word has been said?

Voice assistants "hear" the wake word through a device's microphone. A smart speaker like Amazon Alexa is in effect always listening: it records audio in three-second segments and immediately deletes the recording if it has not detected the wake word. Other kinds of voice assistants may listen for a wake word only when the app is open or if the user presses a button.

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