The Linux Foundation is working to improve voice recognition ethics

Stock photo of woman talking into smartphone.

Enlarge / Technology advances in positional mic arrays as well as voice recognition software are beginning to make voice command an integral part of billions of people’s lives. (credit: Westend61 / Getty Images)

Last week, the Linux Foundation created a new open source industry association called the Open Voice Network (OVN). The new group is an independently governed directed fund of the Linux Foundation, with the goals of improving trust, choice, inclusivity, and openness in voice recognition technology.

While similar to Amazon’s Voice Interoperability Initiative in some ways, the OVN claims a primary focus on ethics. Although Amazon’s effort does touch on user choice and freedom, its primary goal is considerably narrower than OVN’s—to provide “multiple, simultaneous voice services on the same product, each with its own wake word.” Amazon did not say much about ethical restrictions or guidelines for those individual services, either in its current mission statement or in the 2019 press release announcing it.

The Open Voice Network is a neutral nonprofit industry association with some impressive names in its founding-member registry, including Target and Microsoft. OVN’s goal is not to develop the technology itself but to deliver open, trustworthy, and inclusive standards and usage guidelines.

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