Can you trust your voice assistant in a pandemic?

Researchers from the School of Public Health and the National University of Singapore have evaluated the health information capabilities of voice assistants during the COVID-19 pandemic

Ever used a voice assistant? It is software that communicates to the user audibly and responds to spoken commands.

A voice assistant may help you to turn on the lights in your home or play your favourite song. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the technology has also been increasingly used to access health information and updates.

But are consumer needs being met by the emerging technology?

Researchers from the School of Public Health have answered this question by evaluating the health information capabilities of voice assistants during the pandemic.

The research team – comprised of Ms Alysee Shin Ying Goh and Dr Li Lian Wong from the Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore and Dr Kevin Yap from the School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe – assessed a range of digital voice assistants for relevance, accuracy, comprehensiveness, user-friendliness, and reliability of COVID-19-related information.

Google Assistant and Siri came out on top as the best voice assistants for providing consumers with information about COVID-19.

“Google Assistant had the best comprehension ability among all the voice assistants,” says Dr Yap. “It also provided longer verbal responses than Siri.”

“Consumers need to be discerning when obtaining health-related information from voice assistants, including examining the sources of information cited by this technology,” adds Dr Yap.

“Developers must also continue to enhance the skills of voice assistants to ensure that the information provided to consumers is reliable, accurate, comprehensive, user-friendly and relevant.”

Read the paper.