Is my smart assistant always listening to me? This is more of a fear than a query for many. Manufacturers usually brand their smart speakers as “Always Listening”, without bothering to explain what it exactly means. While they surely aren’t listening to your confidential talks, there have been enough instances of unauthorized access as well.
This creates a discomfort among people which a new open-source hardware project plans to erase. Named Project Alias, it is an always-listening speaker that promises to keep Amazon and Google’s smart assistants from listening into your conversations when they shouldn’t be.
Alias is composed of a 3D-printed top layer, a Raspberry Pi, a stereo speaker, and a mic array. It fits on the top of an Amazon Echo or Google Home where it looks like a mass of melted candle wax. After the initial setup process, the device will play a continuous stream of white noise at your smart speaker to keep it from listening to your conversations. Not even “OK Google” or “Alexa” hotwords will reach the ears of your speaker.
Instead you can set up a new hotword for Alias. When it hears that wake word, it’ll stop broadcasting the white noise and whisper “Alexa” or “OK Google” to wake them up. You are now good to use them as normal.
While Google and Amazon let you to keep their devices on mute while holding a private conversation, Alias is designed to give you the benefit of being able to reach them hands-free when you want to. Also, it lets you set a custom hotword, which is a nice bonus feature. However, it cannot protect your voice data once it is sent to the cloud.
Project Alias is a Raspberry Pi project and hence is a DIY thing. Also, the project is experimental and still in development, so even the code isn’t a finished product yet. You can find more info about it at Instrutables and GitHub.