#ScareAlert: Amazon to record even before you say "Alexa"

Shubham Sharma

#ScareAlert: Amazon to record even before you say "Alexa"

24 May 2019: #ScareAlert: Amazon to record even before you say "Alexa"

AI-powered smart assistants have been making quite an impression with their ability to understand/handle queries.

They are constantly being upgraded, but Amazon, one of the largest internet companies in the world, is working on something that may change voice recognition forever, and not for better.

It's exploring a tech that could allow Alexa voice assistant to record users even before they call it specifically.

Detection: Detection with a wake or trigger word

Amazon Alexa, as many already know, works with the help of the 'Alexa' wake word; you have to call 'Alexa' and follow up with a query to get it handled.

The process remains unchanged for other voice assistants too, be it Cortana, Google Assistant, or Apple's Siri.

However, the wake word could be different on the basis of the digital helper you use.

Fact: Picking wake word said between sentences

In their current form, smart assistants can't detect the trigger word after something has been said or in the middle of a sentence.

Now, this is what Amazon could change with a system that may allow Alexa to capture user utterances even before they say 'Alexa'.

The patent for the system, filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, went public just recently.

Working: Looking back at recently said sentences

To achieve the said functionality, Alexa would look at recently said things, BuzzFeed reported.

Simply put, as and when you say 'Alexa', it will go back to see if you had said anything prior to the wake word.

This, combined with the current forward detection, would give the smart assistant the ability to detect and handle the query, according to the patent.

Fact: Your queries could sound more natural

If the system described in the patent ever comes to life, you could communicate more naturally with Alexa, saying phrases like "Play some music, Alexa" and "Play some music, Alexa. The Beatles, please".

Concerns: This, however, raises some serious privacy concerns

While this tech could make Alexa experience better than ever, it raises some serious privacy concerns.

Basically, the system could work with Alexa quickly recording and deleting conversations on its local storage, and processing only those associated with its wake word.

However, many people wouldn't like the idea of Alexa listening to them even if recordings aren't sent to the company.

Amazon's response: What Amazon said about this tech

An Amazon spokesperson told BuzzFeed that the patent is not being used and "referring to potential use of patents is highly speculative."

"Like many companies, we file a number of forward-looking patent applications that explore new scientific ideas that may not make it into customer-facing products," the rep said, adding that patents "do not necessarily reflect current or near-future state of products and services."