An open-source hardware project promises to keep Amazon and Google’s smart assistants from listening in on your private conversations by constantly creating white noise, as first spotted by Fast Company.
The gadget, called Alias, is an always-listening speaker, but it only connects to the internet during the initial setup process. That way, Alias stays “off the grid” while you’re using it, preventing your conversations from leaving the device, Bjørn Karmann, one of the developers, told The Verge. When the Alias hears its own wake word, it’ll stop broadcasting white noise and wake up Alexa or Google Assistant so you can use them as normal. NOT A FINISHED PRODUCT YET.
Alias is designed to fit on top of an Amazon Echo or Google Home where it looks like a mass of melted candle wax. It’s composed of a 3D-printed top layer, a mic array, a Raspberry Pi, and two speakers. Instead of calling the speaker Alexa or Google, you can customize it with a unique wake word, like Steve or The Rock. When it hears that word, the Alias will then quietly wake up the real smart assistant by playing “Alexa” or “OK Google” over its internal speaker.
You can already keep Alexa or Google Assistant on mute while holding a private conversation, but Alias is designed to give you the benefit of muting the smart assistants while still being able to reach them hands-free when you want to.
That said, Alias can’t stop Amazon and Google from storing the conversations that you actually have with their assistants, which will get sent up to the cloud. And since this is a Raspberry Pi project, you won’t be able to buy the product and it will need some degree of DIY tinkering to get this set up. The developers note on GitHub that the project is experimental and still in development, so even the code isn’t a finished product yet.