A shift in Google's voice assistant technology—reducing its software size by a factor of 200—has implications for mobile security and data privacy.
New York Intelligencer explains:
At its annual I/O developer conference, Google delivered a mostly standard slew of announcements, plotting out its course for the future. It touched on most of the topics you’d expect from a slew of marquee announcements from Google.
Perhaps the most surprising announcement, though, was one that breezed by quickly, not a flashy sci-fi-come-to-life demo but a smaller-step advancement. But the implications are substantial. About a half hour into the presentation, CEO Sundar Pichai came back onstage to talk about how complex the models that power Google’s Assistant are. The Assistant, if you need a refresher, is like Google’s version of Siri—a program that processes natural-language commands and responds accordingly.
The Assistant needs to be able to break down a voice snippet into syllables, stitch those syllables into words, and then figure out what those words actually mean in context. Doing this, Pichai explained, requires a lot of data and numerous complex computational models. That’s why voice assistants send the commands from your device to a remote server, which can process it much faster. In the past, Pichai said, the Google Assistant software was a program roughly 100 gigabytes in size. Today Pichai announced that, thanks to some ingenuity, the Assistant’s footprint has been greatly diminished: it’s now roughly half a gigabyte in size.
And that means that the Assistant no longer needs to send your voice to a remote server. Now it can process commands entirely on its own.