Amazon Alexa and its competitors

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RTH10260
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Amazon Alexa and its competitors

#1

Post by RTH10260 »

Amazon patented a way to tell Alexa to ignore “Alexa”

As people get voice-activated speakers and online security cameras for convenience and peace of mind, are they also giving hackers a key to their homes? Many devices from reputable manufacturers have safeguards built in, but safeguards aren’t the same as guarantees.

Kira Bindrim February 04, 2018

If you’re watching the Super Bowl next to an Amazon Echo this evening, worry not: Alexa won’t accidentally wake up when a 90-second commercial all about her plays during the game. That’s because Amazon used “acoustic fingerprinting technology” to help Alexa discern between the ad and a command from her masters roommates.

In fact, Amazon thought about this exact conundrum years ago. In September 2014, the company patented techniques to prevent Alexa from waking up “as part of a broadcast watched by a large population (such as during a popular sporting event).” As Bloomberg reports:

The patent broadly describes two techniques. The first calls for transmitting a snippet of a commercial to Echo devices before it airs. Then the Echo can compare live commands to the acoustic fingerprint of the snippet to determine whether the commands are authentic. The second tactic describes how a commercial itself could transmit an inaudible acoustic signal to tell Alexa to ignore its wake word.

In a Feb. 2 blog post about the Super Bowl commercial, Amazon director for speech recognition Manoj Sindhwani notes that the company can also use this approach to avoid Alexa responding to other unanticipated mentions (and respond to unanticipated mentions she does).

“When multiple devices start waking up simultaneously from a broadcast event, similar audio is streaming to Alexa’s cloud services,” the post explains. “An algorithm within Amazon’s cloud detects matching audio from distinct devices and prevents additional devices from responding. The dynamic fingerprinting isn’t perfect, but as many as 80 to 90 percent of devices won’t respond to these broadcasts thanks to the dynamic creation of the fingerprints.”


https://qz.com/1197847/alexa-will-sleep ... by-design/


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AndyinPA
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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

#2

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That's interesting. I know mentioning "her" name even when you don't want her wakes her up. I have Alexa (wonderful sound for music) and find it useful for a lot of little things. I know I'm under utilizing it from the email I get every Friday with the new things it does.

I bought an inexpensive Amazon Fire tablet before Christmas. I was going to return it as it always opens on an ad, won't let me delete some of their own apps, and will not let me put a Nook app on it. One of the reasons I kept it is because Alexa is on it. Also, my grand daughter likes the larger screen for Netflix and the battery life is really good. But I would never buy another one.

Edited to add:

I had received an advance look at the commercial in the Friday Alexa update email last week. I didn't click on the link then, but did now. My computer is about two feet from the Alexa. There was absolutely no response from it or the one on the tablet.


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Hercule Parrot
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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

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AndyinPA wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:14 pm I bought an inexpensive Amazon Fire tablet before Christmas. I was going to return it as it always opens on an ad, won't let me delete some of their own apps, and will not let me put a Nook app on it.
Fixing the ads is easy. A one-off payment of $15 to Amazon, and they'll just switch it off (http://www.lovemyfire.com/kindle-fire-ads.html)

Getting control over apps is more tricky, but there are plenty of how-to guides for sideloading the Play Store.


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Post by AndyinPA »

Thanks on the link. I had the impression I could do that. I also knew I could slideload, but I haven't done anything with it.


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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

#5

Post by Hercule Parrot »

I am hovering in a state of querulous indecision between Amazon Echo and Google Home. Plenty of people say "I've got a.... you should get one, it's great" but I would really value the comparative view of anyone who has used both on a regular basis?


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Mikedunford
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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

#6

Post by Mikedunford »

Sorry, can't help with a comparative.

But I've got a Google Home...you should get one, it's great.


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Maybe Wirecutter's article will give you some answers - What Is Alexa? What Is the Amazon Echo, and Should You Get One?


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RTH10260
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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

#8

Post by RTH10260 »

FWIW the Apple contender

Apple HomePod vs Google Home vs Amazon Echo
https://www.macworld.co.uk/feature/appl ... o-3660329/


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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

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Post by tek »

To me, none are worth the cost of having every sound in my home shipped off to a server somewhere for processing, classification, and storage.

But that's just me.


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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

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Post by TexasFilly »

I bought an Echo Dot a few years ago at Christmas. I think they were selling for $29. Got another for my youngest son. We liked it so much I got a third for our summer home. I use it to play Jeopardy while making the bed in the morning. My husband likes to listen to music while he's doing chores. I check the weather every morning before I get out of bed. The most convenient thing is to add things to my shopping list as I think about them. I've finally gotten Mr. Filly to use this function and I always have my phone at the store, so the list is all in one place.

We really don't have any information that would be worth listening to, so unless there's a murder at our house, that's not a concern for us.


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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

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I was offered a chance to be one of the beta testers of the Echo a few years back. At the time, I couldn't imagine how I could possibly find it useful, so I passed.

Fast-forward a couple of years, and my mom's dementia got to the point where she could no longer remember how to use the digital radio/usb music player. I'd come home from work and she'd just be sitting there, without even music to listen to. So I bought an Echo. After all, you just have to tell it what you want to hear. I printed out a list of commands, like "Alexa, play classic country", "Alexa play WCCO-AM" and taped it over the Echo.

Problem is, she's at that stage in her life where she's losing faculties, not learning new ones, not even simple new ones. So she couldn't or wouldn't use it. After much searching, I found an old-fashioned analog dial radio and gave her that, but she can no longer remember how to use that, either. So the radio sits untouched, and I use the Echo mostly as a cooking timer. Sometimes I listen to music on it when I cook.

I did just buy a smart outdoor outlet that works with both Google Home and Alexa. I'm going to use it to control my outdoor low-voltage lighting. But so far, the Echo's gotten very little use in my house.


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#12

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tek wrote: Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:51 am To me, none are worth the cost of having every sound in my home shipped off to a server somewhere for processing, classification, and storage.

But that's just me.
I'm boring. I ask Alexa about the time, the weather and the temperature. If Alexa is downloading information, it's going to be a lot of "Come here, Nicki," "Get down, Nicki," "Shut up, Nicki," and loud music lots of loud music.


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#13

Post by Slim Cognito »

All our kids have one version of these or another and they love them. I'm old and grumpy enough that I'm still leary of big brother. Am I being unreasonably grumpy? And what, if any, security precautions are suggested? Because they do look fun.


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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

#14

Post by Hercule Parrot »

Mikedunford wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:41 pm Sorry, can't help with a comparative.

But I've got a Google Home...you should get one, it's great.
Alexa! Send Mikedunford a raspberry. :lol:


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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

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Mikedunford wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:41 pm Sorry, can't help with a comparative.

But I've got a Google Home...you should get one, it's great.
I am with you Mike. The kids got me one for Christmas a couple of years ago. I am still learning things it can do. I am thinking about getting the modules with a WiFi chip built in that let you control lights and other things. I think some of the modules are under $10.


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MN-Skeptic wrote: Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:03 pm Maybe Wirecutter's article will give you some answers - What Is Alexa? What Is the Amazon Echo, and Should You Get One?
Thanks, a very detailed review.. there's a link for their review of the Google home, also too.

Having read both, I feel that neither product is properly developed yet. Google thing will do phone calls, but only in USA. Amazon thing will do phone calls, but only to other Amazon things. Both are being improved and expanded on the hoof. I think I'll have to buy one as an interim toy and bin it in a year or so, or just wait for the tech to mature. So that's option A then, as tech never reaches stable maturity now. Maybe I'll just toss an analogue coin....


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Post by Hercule Parrot »

Okay, so in the end it was decided on price. Amazon Echo on promotion at £75, v Google Home at £130. Arrives tomorrow, gains full self awareness by 12:00 GMT and commences the AI war on humanity at 12:03 GMT. That's if I can work out how to switch it on....


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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

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I have two Echo Dots and use them constantly. They turn my lights on and off, wake me in the morning, play music, tell time, offer weather and--very important--remind me with timers when the stove or water hose are on. To thwart Big Brother, in your browser go to your Amazon account, then Accounts & Lists~Content & Devices~Your Devices~Echo and to the left of your Echo are elipses, click on that, click on Manage Voice Recordings, click on Delete. That wipes out everything Echo has captured. Similarly, through the Alexa app go to Settings, History, and you will see all your recordings and you can delete them one by one.

One of my favorite things is to ask Alexa to tell me something interesting. She always does.


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We have a handful of the Amazon Echos around the house. It makes a great kitchen timer/reminder that you can set from across the room while your hands are messy. We use it to control the lights in the kitchen and family room. I use it to start my lawn sprinkler system if I think the lawn needs extra water (via a Rachio smart controller). We use it as an intercom system, especially between my workshop and my wife's art studio. My wife uses it to listen to audio books. I get sports updates from it during baseball season. We occasionally ask it a question but it doesn't always come up with an answer. The one in the bedroom frequently gets set as an alarm clock when my wife decides she wants to sleep a little longer. So, yeah, we've found plenty of uses for it.


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Hercule Parrot wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2018 7:22 pm Okay, so in the end it was decided on price. Amazon Echo on promotion at £75, v Google Home at £130. Arrives tomorrow, gains full self awareness by 12:00 GMT and commences the AI war on humanity at 12:03 GMT. That's if I can work out how to switch it on....
Just speak to it! ;)


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Post by Sam the Centipede »

RTH10260 wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:37 pm
Hercule Parrot wrote: Mon Feb 12, 2018 7:22 pm Okay, so in the end it was decided on price. Amazon Echo on promotion at £75, v Google Home at £130. Arrives tomorrow, gains full self awareness by 12:00 GMT and commences the AI war on humanity at 12:03 GMT. That's if I can work out how to switch it on....
Just speak to it! ;)
But you might need to put on an American accent, old fruit!


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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

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Gizmodo: The House that Spied on Me.

An interesting exploration of how much your products monitor you, report that data, and then pass it on.


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That was a great article. I don't ever plan to have that much connected. I think I'll link on the post a few up to see about disabling some of Alexa's functions.

We also have a Ring, which I like because I can't see out my front door and it opens out, not the safest setup. I also like that I can check in if someone comes to the house while we're gone. I draw the line at an indoor camera, though. I don't want to have to put a robe on if i step out of the bedroom into the living room. I guess everyone has to draw her own line in the sand.


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The Ring is my favorite smart device. We live in a target rich environment for the door to door types so I tend to not answer the door for people I don't know. The Ring lets me see who it is. Plus, most of the delivery drivers have figured out that placing packages behind the center column of my porch hides them from view while putting them in direct line of sight from my Ring. All of them, that is, except for drivers from Amazon Logistics who insist on dropping packages out in the open.

My second favorite smart device is the Rachio controller for my sprinkler system. It uses local weather monitoring stations to determine when it can skip a watering cycle and alters its basic watering schedule throughout the year based on normal weather patterns. This thing probably paid for itself in the first year just in water savings.


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Re: Amazon Alexa and its competitors

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"I was trying to turn off some lights and they kept turning back on. After the third request, Alexa stopped responding and instead did an evil laugh. The laugh wasn't in the Alexa voice. It sounded like a real person.”
Amazon Knows Alexa Devices Are Laughing Spontaneously And It's "Working To Fix It"


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