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Regional accents 'suppressed by voice assistants'

Regional accents could be being suppressed by voice assistants including Google Home, Alexa, Cortana and Siri, according to research in Newcastle.
The study found that 79% of people with a regional accent said they had to alter how they spoke in order to communicate with their devices.
Conducted by the Life Science Centre in Newcastle, the survey asked 536 visitors about their struggles with technology.Linda Conlon, the centre's chief executive, said: "Ask anyone with a regional accent and they'll tell you the struggles of using automated voice recognition."The same people who decades ago were frustrated as teens trying to get cinema listings from an automated telephone system are now having the same issues with their smartphones or smart speakers."The technology has moved forward, but the inclusivity to cater for regional accents has not," added Ms Conlon.
This came with concerns that the use of voice assistants could suppress regional accents entirely if users permanently altered their behaviour to communicate with them.Dr Laurence White, a senior lecturer at Newcastle University, added: "If we only ever spoke to our devices and they failed to understand our accent, this might alter our speech in the longer term."Because of the social power of our voice, however, as soon as we talk to familiar people again, we revert to our habitual accent," he added.
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The news follows the announcement earlier this year of a new version of Alexa with an express intent to modify its users' speech patterns, with a feature that will teach children to say please and thank you.Researchers are also warning that young children could be influenced by robots, which could adversely affect the development of both the technology and the child.
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