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There Is a Racial Divide in Speech Recognition Systems, Researchers Say


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Amazons Echo devices.

A Stanford University study found that speech recognition systems from five of the worlds biggest tech companies make far fewer errors with users who are white than with users who are black.

Credit: Grant Hindsley/The New York Times

With an iPhone, you can dictate a text message. Put Amazon's Alexa on your coffee table, and you can request a song from across the room.

But these devices may understand some voices better than others. Speech recognition systems from five of the world's biggest tech companies — Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM and Microsoft — make far fewer errors with users who are white than with users who are black, according to a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The systems misidentified words about 19% of the time with white people. With black people, mistakes jumped to 35%. About 2% of audio snippets from white people were considered unreadable by these systems, according to the study, which was conducted by researchers at Stanford University. That rose to 20% with black people.

 

From The New York Times
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