Use That Everyday AI in Your Pocket

Virtual assistants usually hog the spotlight when it comes to artificial intelligence software on smartphones and tablets. But Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby and company are the only tools using machine learning to make life easier – other common programs use the technology, too. Here’s a quick tour through some common AI-driven apps and how you can manage them.

When you set up a new device, you are usually invited to “enroll” in its facial recognition security program, which captures your image and analyzes it so the program will recognize you in different looks and lighting situations. Later, when you want to unlock your device or use apps like digital payment systems, the camera confirms that your face matches stored data so you can proceed.

Credit …Apple; Google

If you decide to use this feature, check your device maker’s privacy policy to see where the data is stored. For example, Apple states that “Face ID data does not leave your device,” and Google says it stores face-to-face security chips on its Pixel phones. If you sign up and then have second thoughts, you can always go into your phone’s Face ID or Face Unlock settings, delete or reset the data, turn off the feature and stick with a passcode.

If you’ve ever been typing along on your phone’s keyboard and noticed suggested words for what you might type next, that is machine learning in action. Apple’s iOS software includes a predictive text function that bases its suggestions on your past conversations, Safari browser searches and other sources.

Google’s Gboard keyboard for Android and iOS can offer word suggestions, and Google has a smart compose tool for Gmail and other text-entry apps that draws personal information into your Google Account’s tailor to tailor its word predictions. Samsung has its own predictive text software for its Galaxy devices.

Credit …Apple

The suggestions may save you time, and both Apple and Google state that customized predictions based on your personal information remain private. Still, if you like minimal algorithms in your business, turn it off. On an iPhone (or iPad), you can turn off Predictive Text in the Keyboard settings.

Use Google Lens (for Android and iOS) and Apple’s Live Text feature to analyze artificial intelligence for automatic translation of images into text and perform other helpful tasks like Apple’s “visual look up.” Google Lens can identify plants, animals and products seen through the phone’s camera, and these searches are saved. You can delete information or turn off data-gathering in the Web & App Activity settings in your Google Account.

Credit …Google; Apple

In iOS 15, you can turn off Live Text by opening the Settings app, tapping General and then Language & Region and turning off the button for Live Text. Later this year, Live Text is getting an upgrade in iOS 16, which stresses the role Apple plays in “on-device intelligence.”

These AI-in-action tools are most useful when they have access to personal information like your address and contacts. If you have concerns, read your phone maker’s privacy policy: Apple, Google and Samsung all have documents posted in their sites. The nonprofit site Common Sense Media has posted independent privacy evaluations for Siri, Google Assistant and Bixby.

Credit …Google; Apple

Setting up the software is straightforward because the helper guides you, but check out the app’s own settings to customize it. And don’t forget the general privacy controls built into your phone’s operating system.

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