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New data reveals the UK accents that Alexa doesn’t understand

Written by Nick Baker, Content Writer - Comms

17 July 2020

  • 5.8 million homes across the UK now have an AI assistant

  • Welsh is the hardest accent for smart speakers to understand with 1,500 searches per month for “Why doesn’t my Alexa understand me”

  • London is the easiest city for virtual assistants to understand with only 200 searches per month for “why doesn’t my Alexa understand me”

  • Alexa and other smart speaker devices struggled to understand over 23% of accents in the UK according to new Uswitch.com research

According to new research from Uswitch.com, the comparison and switching service, smart devices struggle to understand over 23% of UK accents.

AI assistants are now estimated to be in over 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 that not all of us have the same experience, with virtual assistants struggling to understand the commands of many regional accents.

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

These are the cities Alexa and Google Home struggle to understand the most

Image 1. Shows which 30 cities across the UK smart speaking struggle to understand. 

Welsh revealed as THE hardest accent for Amazon’s Alexa to understand

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.

Liverpudlians are the most frustrated with being misunderstood

Scousers are also more likely to have to repeat themselves, with the study revealing that smart speakers don’t favour their accent based on voice clarity. They make a whopping 1,700 searches a month for ‘Why doesn’t my smart speaker understand me’.

London is the easiest city for smart speakers to understand

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 our 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.

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

Find out how you could save nearly £1,000 a year with Uswitch here.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Bekah Edwards

Phone: 020 3920 7263

Email: rebekah.edwards@rvu.co.uk

Twitter: @uSwitchPR

We ran an independent experiment across 30 cities in the UK to find out 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. We then uploaded videos of this happening to Google Transcribe to see how many times those questions weren’t dictated correctly. A point was awarded every time it couldn’t understand an accent.

Questions asked:

Alexa/Hey Google What is the weather like today?

Alexa/Hey Google What is the time?

Alexa/Hey Google Play the next song, please

Alexa/Hey Google set an alarm for *time*

Alexa/Hey Google What is the date today?

Alexa/Hey Google, play *radio station or song*

Alexa/Hey Google, Could you turn it down, please

Alexa/Hey Google, How do you spell *word*?

Alexa/Hey Google, Alexa, mute/unmute

Alexa/Hey Google, Please can you turn off the lights

Using Google's Keyword Planner we looked at search volumes for keywords around being understood/not understood by Alexa and Google Assistant. As well as searches for which city wants to buy a virtual assistant the most in the UK.

Sources

1  - Source of data of how many UK residents have an AI device.

https://voicebot.ai/2019/10/11/over-20-of-uk-households-have-smart-speakers-while-germany-passes-10-and-ireland-approaches-that-milestone/#:~:text=New%20data%20from%20Strategy%20Analytics,of%20over%2010%20million%20users.

2-5 - We ran an independent experiment across 30 cities in the UK to find out 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. We then uploaded videos of this happening to Google Transcribe to see how many times those questions weren’t dictated correctly. A point was awarded every time it couldn’t understand an accent.

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