Take smart speakers — the kind that respond to vocal prompts and questions — as an example. It’s exactly the sort of technology that gives people pause. Is this thing listening to me all the time? What about these weird stories of smart speakers laughing or cursing, or randomly recording a conversation and sending it to the owners’ contacts? The tech press has gotten better and better at chronicling the latest troubling answers — for instance, people may in fact listen to your voice activations as part of the process of refining the device’s functionality — and detailing what, if anything, you can do about it.
Nevertheless: As of last year, a little more than a quarter of American households owned a smart speaker, according to one estimate. The category leader is the Amazon Echo, equipped with the Alexa voice-recognition software; Amazon says it has sold more than 100 million Alexa devices.
Certain tech-use indicators have in fact leveled off in recent years, but that’s mostly because they correspond with categories that are already thoroughly established and widespread: Around 95 percent of consumers in the United States say they have or use a cellphone, and 89 percent have or use the internet, according to Pew. But dig a little deeper into that data, and it turns out that “new connected devices continue to emerge” and we continue to embrace them. In addition to voice assistants, smart TVs and wearable devices are growing in popularity.