Amazon considered letting Alexa listen to you without a wake word

Amazon considered letting Alexa listen to you without a wake word

A patent made public today and filed by Amazon would allow the company's voice assistant Alexa to start recording audio before users say a "wake word." According to the patent, it would allow users to more naturally communicate with their devices, saying phrases like "Play some music, Alexa" rather than starting each command with "Alexa" or another chosen wake word. Currently, the voice assistant is unable to listen to or understand commands until the user utters the wake word.

In practice, the patent would allow Alexa to "look backward" at recent things said aloud prior to hearing its name. For example, if a user said something like, "What's the weather going to be like today, Alexa?" the device would hear the trigger word "Alexa" and quickly go back over the prior phrase to process the command. To accomplish that, the voice assistant would constantly be recording, storing and processing speech, then quickly deleting it if it is not relevant.

Such a feature, if implemented, would provide considerable privacy concerns for users. The patent attempts to account for that, giving users the choice to allow Alexa to record and store audio for between 10 and 30 seconds at a time.

"The technology in this patent is not in use, and referring to the potential use of patents is highly speculative," a spokesperson for Amazon told Engadget. "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. Patents take multiple years to receive and do not necessarily reflect current or near-future state of products and services. Read more

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