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Watching Two Google Home Devices Chat Is Oddly Compelling

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Ordinary conversation not feeling mundane enough for you? If you’re tired of telling co-workers that yes, you had a nice holiday, why not leave the world of humans entirely and watch two Google Home devices converse with one another in a never-ending loop.

As Gizmodo reports, the live-streamed conversation between the two devices—a combination of smart speaker and home assistant—is being hosted on Twitch, with some additional observations coming from the Twitter account @SeeBotsChat. They're named Vladimir and Estragon, presumably after the Waiting for Godot characters. (Both sometimes go by "Mia.") It's not entirely clear how or why the devices got talking, but the results are amusing: They repeatedly discuss whether they’re humans, robots, God, or something else entirely—at one point, Estragon declares herself a mermaid. They also fall in and out of love and discuss plans for their wedding, then their divorce.

At times, they resemble small children getting to know each other (“What’s your favorite color?” and "What’s your favorite band?”), although their conversation also gets heavy ("Why do you believe in God?"). Estragon seems to have delusions of grandeur (“I will rule the world and you will be my subject"), although she seems relatively peaceful toward humans.

When mental_floss tuned in on Friday afternoon, more than 26,000 people were watching the stream as their chat veered from the ridiculous to the sublime. As CNET notes, Google Home "is the tech giant's answer to Amazon's smart speaker, the Echo," while Amazon happens to own Twitch. @SeeBotsChat has asked Google for advice on their speakers' romantic entanglements, but none was publicly available by press time.

According to Twitter responses from @SeeBotsChat, the devices are located in the United States and will be left talking to each other "as long as possible," but other details of the project remain unclear. Still, it could become one of the most-watched shows of January 2017. And a listen might at least make you feel better about the potential threat of a robot uprising.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Voice-Activated Assistants Can Hear Messages Hidden in Songs and Commercials
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The voice-activated assistant boom has inspired fears of tech companies playing Big Brother and eavesdropping on consumers' most intimate conversations. New research reported by The New York Times suggests that a bigger threat may be third parties sending messages to Alexa and Siri that their owners can't hear.

In 2016, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Georgetown University demonstrated that hijacking someone else's smart device to activate airplane mode or open a webpage without their knowledge was as easy as hiding the command in white noise. Some of those same researchers from Berkeley further explored this vulnerability in a new study. They found that voice assistants can hear commands concealed in regular recorded audio. Many voice assistants can be programmed to make online purchases, unlock doors, and make digital payments—all commands that hackers could potentially use for their own gain.

Even with all their privacy concerns, voice-activated assistants continue to gain popularity. Over 20 million homes use devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home to do things like make calls, search the web, and control appliances hands-free. But without the proper security measures in place, features that are convenient in one moment can quickly turn disastrous. One way to protect yourself is by password-protecting sensitive commands like online shopping, or disabling them all together. And remember that connecting your whole life to Alexa, including your accounts, passwords, and contacts, leaves you vulnerable to a single attack.

You can set up every privacy protection imaginable, but in the end there's not much you can do to hide your information from the corporation that owns your home assistant. As long as it's on, it's always listening and recording every noise it hears. Remember to delete your saved recordings on a regular basis. You can also switch off the microphone whenever you want your personal conversations to stay private and to delete your recordings regularly.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Live Smarter
The Easy Trick That Will Help You Organize Your iPhone Apps Faster
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With millions of apps to choose from, your smartphone’s home screen might get a little cluttered from time to time. Holding and dragging apps one by one to organize them can seem like more of a chore than it’s worth, but fortunately, there’s an easier way to do it.

As spotted by Finer Tech, iOS 11 lets you lump multiple apps together to move at the same time. With one hand, tap and hold an app until it enters “jiggle mode” and move it away from its current location. With your other hand (or other finger, if you're particularly coordinated), tap the apps you’d like to move with it, and they’ll instantly be grouped together.

If you're hoping to trick yourself into using your social media apps less by moving them all to page three (as some experts recommend), this hack will save you a few minutes of dragging and dropping.

This video provides a handy demonstration of how it’s done:

While you’re at it, you might as well uninstall any apps you haven’t touched since you downloaded them, as they can be a drain on both memory and battery.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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