The Amazon Echo: Cool or Creepy?

June 7, 2017

Amazon sold millions of Alexa-based products over this holiday season (including the Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick, Fire tablet, and Amazon Echo). And it’s no wonder the sounds of “Alexa, (fill in the blank)” got stuck in all our heads, as Pentatonix/Echo commercials have been swirling Youtube.

Alexa’s inner self is made of a few speakers, microphones, and a small computer. What puts the I in AI is Amazon’s cloud technology. The AVS (Alexa Voice Services) patiently waits to hear the wake word, “Alexa”, before recording your question and sending it over to Amazon. An audio file zips back and plays over your Bluetooth speaker, “It is 74 degrees outside and cloudy,” “Now playing the Pentatonix Christmas album,” etc.

Alexa is the 2.0 of talk-to-text our generation never knew we wanted. However, with any new technology, there are nay-sayers. Ben Woods, writer for The Next Web, says, “Google can already connect all the dots in my life through its services (that I willingly use, despite knowing this) but now it knows what I sound like too. There are people on the periphery of my life who don’t even know that.”

He goes on to say that the convenience of voice command is belittled by the creep-factor of not knowing where your voice is being stored.

Hackers have been doing what they do best and adding support for a media-center called Kodi and other unofficial features. So what is stopping them from full on hacking the device and listening to your every word? As a normal/ non-hacking person, this is slightly terrifying to think about.

Amazon responds to these concerns by stating that Echo only streams recordings from the user’s home when the ‘wake word’ activates the device.

I personally purchased an Echo Dot this holiday season and find it extremely entertaining and down-right handy. Example: Instead of pulling out my phone to check my weather app, I can simply ask my buddy Alexa if I’ll need a jacket before heading out the door.

So, what’s your verdict on the AVS series? Cool or creepy?

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