Speech recognition algorithms may also have racial bias

Extreme closeup photograph of a professional microphone.

Enlarge / Microphones are
how our machines listen to us. (credit:
Teddy Mafia / Flickr
)

We’re outsourcing ever more of our decision making to
algorithms, partly as a matter of convenience, and partly because
algorithms are ostensibly free of some of the biases that humans
suffer from. Ostensibly. As it turns out, algorithms that are
trained on data that’s already subject to human biases
can readily recapitulate them
, as we’ve seen in places like

the banking
and
judicial systems
. Other algorithms have just turned out to be

not especially good
.

Now, researchers at Stanford have identified another area with
potential issues: the speech-recognition algorithms that do
everything from basic transcription to letting our phones fulfill
our requests. These algorithms seem to have more issues with the
speech patterns used by African Americans, although there’s a
chance that geography plays a part, too.

A non-comedy of errors

Voice-recognition systems have become so central to modern
technology that most of the large companies in the space have
developed their own. For the study, the research team tested
systems from Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. While some
of these systems are sold as services to other businesses, the ones
from Apple and Google are as close as your phone. Their growing
role in daily life makes their failures intensely frustrating, so
the researchers decided to have a look at whether those failures
display any sort of bias.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Speech recognition algorithms may also have racial bias