back to article Smartphones may soon listen in on you while they sleep

Your smartphone may soon be able to hear and respond to you even when it's in sleep mode – that is, if the combined efforts of engineers at speech-recognition leader Nuance Communications and chipset makers succeed in their goal. Nuance CTO Vlad Sejnoha told Technology Review that his company is collaborating with "a number of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I dumped my mobile years ago

    My threshold of tolerance for this kind of parasitic involuntary intrusive surveillance was exceeded long before now.

    Now, I can't imagine ever picking up a mobile again (voluntarily).

    And frankly, it is liberating.

  2. Ben Tasker

    After herniating a disk

    Might just be because I'm tired, but when I first read this I assumed it was a euphamism, sort of like shit a brick. It was only when you listed the vertebrae that the real meaning was clear

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not if you power it off completely

    Remove battery only if you want to make sure it is dead. Oops, sorry iPhone users!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not if you power it off completely

      As an iPhone user I can verify that if you power off your iPhone it will stay off, even if you have set an alarm which you really want it to wake you up!

      I mean, come on, my first mobile used to wake up when the alarm was set FFS

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: Not if you power it off completely

      I wouldn't be surprised if they end up putting a capacitor in there to keep the damn thing running on minimum for a couple of hours even if you remove the battery. Law enforcement and spook agencies at the very least would love to have such a feature in smartphones. Couple that with Australia's and UK's data retention laws and you have a cornucopia of Big Brotherish delights for them to drool over.

      Mind you, given the propensity of the Facebook-and-Twitter mob to pour out their private lives to all and sundry this'll probably be welcomed by them, making it a standard for everyone whether we like it or not.

  4. Arctic fox
    Thumb Down

    No, my phone won't.

    Not unless it wants to be buried at a cross-roads with a stake through its cpu.

  5. Anonymous Coward
  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't see how this is useful

    So if I watch one of the Apple commercials advertising Siri with my phone sitting on couch next to me, would it try to respond to Zooey Deschanel? Yeah, that sounds like a useful feature.

    This is why you have to hit a button before you talk to your phone rather than just looking in it's direction and talking to it like you talk to a person sitting next to you. People can pick up on visual cues and know when you are talking to them rather than the person next to them. Phones can't do this. Maybe it could figure out if you are looking at it if you happen to be in view of its front camera, but if my phone is lying on the couch and I'm sitting to the side of it, it can't see me unless it gets a fisheye lens and runs the front camera ALL the time.

    Talking to your phone when it's sleeping will become useful the day you can say "come here phone" and it will levitate on little air jets and fly across the room into your hand. OK, that's really not very useful at all, but it would certainly come up all the time when fanboys of that phone tried to argue it was the best :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't see how this is useful

      Not useful to you, my friend, useful to them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't see how this is useful

      "People can pick up on visual cues and know when you are talking to them rather than the person next to them. Phones can't do this."

      People occasionally get this wrong too. It doesn't matter as much because they won't take that as a cue to start relaying your words to a random one of your acquaintances who's not even in the room.

  7. Haku
    Black Helicopters

    So this is just further affirmation (as Hollywood films love to keep on telling us)

    If you can't remove the battery from your phone you have no privacy.

    1. mIRCat
      Paris Hilton

      Re: So this is just further affirmation (as Hollywood films love to keep on telling us)

      If the film Four Lions is to be believed the only sure method is to swallow your SIM.

      Paris because she's not afraid to swallow her SIM.

  8. Eddy Ito
    Black Helicopters

    Best news evar!

    Because on the next day, I became a billionaire installing mobile suppression emi shielding in every corporate office on the planet.

    1. Aldous
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Best news evar!

      nope 99% of people don't give a damn and look at you like a luddite (try telling people why you don't have a GPS unit in phone/fondle slab) and the 1% that care are written off as paranoid whackjobs. would only effect corperates if data protection laws or similar made them otherwise everyone will be too busy cooing over the shinys

  9. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Top voice recognition system in the market place...

    In the phone system realm, in terms of voice recognition systems into which I must call and speak to get service, I have found that the FedEx system works the best of any other vendor I must call. I can have conversations with others and say what I want into the phone during the conversation and it will ask me if what it thinks it heard is correct. And most of the time it is. It also understands a number of equivalent phrases, such as "complaint" is understood as "customer feedback," and there are more. As well, I believe it can understand full sentences and not just short descriptive terms of what you need: "I want to ship a package over-seas" and "international shipping" are the same, and so on.

    Much unlike systems many of us know so well, like Microsoft and Dell. The latter makes me want to jab a white-hot railroad rail (not the spike, the full rail) into my eye. You so much as let wind while the damned thing is talking and it comes up with some outlandish thing it thinks it heard you say, or just simply interrupts itself with an apology and an offer to try again. God forbid you're calling in a noisy environment as you're likely to make it feel uneasy enough to instruct you to call back later.

    More on-topic, I suppose: I am very interested in how they plan to over-come some of the technical hurdles of getting a phone to discern the difference between a casual conversation amid background noise and properly determine what you want it to do. All while not draining the hell out of your battery like other active technologies such as Bluetooth and WiFi already do. Not to mention that, in reality, I cannot think of anyone who actually turns his phone off or puts it into a sleep state other than the phones default stand-by mode, in which the operating system, background applications, and radios are still functioning. The said, maybe it won't be such a technical hurdle.

    Anyway, good to hear you're doing better, Rik. Back injuries are serious business.

    Paris, uneasy enough to ask if you might come again later.

  10. LinkOfHyrule
    Paris Hilton

    Phone and bedrooms do not mix - like the time I accidentally called my mum while I was in bed with someone.

    1. LinkOfHyrule
      Paris Hilton

      For the record it was a jeans still on situation - you know what I mean, well I assume you do, and the phone was unlocked and in my pocket and did a last number redial or something and my mums voice started coming out of my crotch :D

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Tell that one to your therapist, Oedipus.

    2. sabba

      Am I the only one wondering why you'd call out your Mum's name...

      ...whilst love making?

      I am presuming she wasn't in the room (in any capacity) at the time.

  11. h4rm0ny

    I turned my phone off...

    ...a few days ago for the first time in over a year (had had a row and didn't want any calls back). It was amazing how relaxing it was not to be distracted with my phone beeping at me whenever a txt came in or even just to wonder if someone was going to call or try to get hold of me during work or at night. It's back on again now, but I hadn't realized how that constant feeling of being about to be disturbed at any moment had crept into my emotional state.

    Short version: I'm not buying any phone I can't turn off.

  12. PeterGriffin

    Sleep as Android

    Sleep as Android will - with your permission - spy on you whilst you sleep. A nifty app for the curious:

  13. Danny 14

    why rooting is a must

    if this sort of crap becomes "standard" then rooting will be a must for all my future phones, otherwise i'll not bother.

  14. Telecide

    Personal moments

    "...more personal moments when it's sitting on his nightstand..." - what sort of things do you come out with while having a good wank??

  15. The Alpha Klutz

    "Just turning on the device is part of the problem, right?"

    .... no

  16. Mike Taylor

    Oh god, oh god

    Your nearest church is 2.1km away.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh god, oh god

      Harder Harder

      "Renewing your Viagra prescription"

  17. cs94njw
    Thumb Up

    Those problems are tiny.

    A more likely and serious problem is Apple seeing them in court, and a list of patents they might infringe.

  18. MrXavia

    Locked Phones?

    I lock my phone, partly for security partly to avoid accidental app action...

    I would not want my phone listening when locked, so no point in having it until the tech is there to 100% identify the speaker and 100% know it is not a recording of the speaker!

    I can see uses for it in home automation, in car control etc... but not on a mobile phone which by definition is a portable device which requires security...

  19. Great Bu

    After herniating a disk......... in the Galápagos Islands in mid-April,

    Didn't they warn you ? Those tortoises only look normal sized because they are far away - don't try to pick one up and stuff it in your suitcase !

    1. sabba

      Re: After herniating a disk......... in the Galápagos Islands in mid-April,

      Perhaps he was just coming out of its shell!!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh great....

    ... now my blinkin' PHONE will moan at me for snoring, too :(

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1984 Again...

    Orwell was very prescient. Telescreens eavesdropped on sleepers' night-time murmurings for treasonous content.

  22. Tom Jasper

    Wakelock wakelock wakelock

    Will no-one think of the poor batteries

  23. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Faraday cage

    Just stick the damn phone in a biscuit tin full of acoustic wadding when ya go to bed or don't want anyone listening in.

    It'll struggle to hear you and won't be able to get a signal.

    Better yet, just refuse to buy any phone that has this feature.

    The manufacturers will soon get the message.,

    1. Fatman

      Re: Better yet, just refuse to buy any phone that has this feature.

      Best idea I have seen yet.

      Let your wallet do the talking!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I Need This

    Finally! All those times I have wanted to turn a phone on, only to find my fingers too damn lazy to do it for me. I love the sound of my own voice; if only there were some way for my voice to replace my fingers. Now there is! Plus a voice activated phone can be switched on from a distance. Why go and pick it up when I can just shout at it from far away? If I wanted to use it close up, why would I have this little telescope grafted onto my face? The next thing I want is a voice operated knife. If I had one of those, I could tell it to chop my fingers off for me.

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