Amazon Echo: Alexa doesn’t understand some regional UK accents

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Exclusive new research from Uswitch.com reveals some smart devices struggle to understand more than 23 percent of UK accents. AI assistants are now estimated to be in more than 5.8 million homes across the UK, with voice command features allowing us to do everything from checking the weather to turning off the lights.

The data, however, reveals not everyone enjoys the same experience, with virtual assistants struggling to understand the commands of many regional accents.

While most of us find them useful it’s clear that more needs to be done to make voice recognition features smoother

Nick Baker, broadband expert at Uswitch.com

The comparison and switching service analysed 30 accents from cities across the UK by recording them asking their smart devices ten common questions.

Each city was then given a score out of 10 for voice clarity – the higher the score meaning the more errors were encountered.

The research also explored how many searches people in these cities made for ‘Why doesn’t Alexa/ Google understand me?’ using Google’s keyword planner to collect this data and create a full picture of the most difficult to comprehend accents for smart speakers.

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Amazon Echo: A shock survey has revealed the UK accents Alexa doesn’t understand (Image: Getty)

This was then totalled together alongside all other metrics to give an overall score.

Based on the data the least understood city is Cardiff.

With a total of 1,550 searches for ‘why doesn’t Alexa understand me?’ and a voice clarity score of seven out of 10, Welsh is clearly the hardest accent for the AI technology to understand.

The city was closely followed by Glasgow which had the second-highest overall score when looking at both voice clarity and search volumes for ‘why doesn’t my Alexa understand me?’ and Liverpool.

Other cities that virtual assistants struggle to understand include Belfast, Newcastle and Dublin.

The clearest accent came from people living in London.

With only 200 monthly searches for ‘Why doesn’t Alexa understand me?’ and just 75 for the same question of Google.

London also scored a two for voice clarity during the experiment, making it near perfect when it comes to pronunciation.

Lincoln, the city famed for its cathedral, came in second in the clarity league table, only offering a combined total of 467 searches for ‘Why doesn’t my smart speaker understand me’, and scoring one out of 10 for voice clarity.

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Nick Baker, broadband expert at Uswitch.com highlights why tech brands should be doing more.

He told Express.co.uk: “Smart speakers are becoming an integral part of many modern-day homes.

“While most of us find them useful it’s clear that more needs to be done to make voice recognition features smoother.

“The use of artificial intelligence in products is only going to increase, and as it grows in popularity it’s important that features are accessible to all.

“The more we use virtual assistants the better they will get at understanding us.

“Some brands are already taking steps to allow assistants to learn about our accents which should avoid alienating customers and improve user experience.”

Uswitch.com ran an independent experiment across 309 cities in the UK to discover which accent Alexa and Google Assistant struggled with the most.

Each participant was told to ask their smart device ten of the most popular questions.

The company then uploaded videos of this happening to Google Transcribe to see how many times those questions were not dictated correctly.

A point was awarded every time it couldn’t understand an accent.

Using Google’s Keyword Planner Uswitch.com examined search volumes for keywords around being understood or not understood by Alex and Google Assistant.


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