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Amazon Wants Alexa To Respond Only When Asked To

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Amazon Alexa is pretty good at identifying its own name; however, that does not make it immune to false words, or similar sounding words, for instance, “Hey Alexis.” To make the voice assistant better at removing similar words, the e-commerce giant introduced a new feature on Monday.

Amazon aims to bring third-party devices on par with Echo

Several devices based on Google Home and Amazon’s Echo respond to some words that “wake them up.” For Alexa, the actual “wake up” word is “Alexa,” and for Home, it is “OK Google” or “Hey Google.” But there are some instances when similar sounding words wake up these devices, like if you are calling a friend named Alexis.

To fix this, Amazon came up with a new feature called Cloud-Based Wake Word Verification. This feature is for third-party manufacturers that have Amazon’s smart assistant built into their devices. By adding this feature, the company wants to make sure that its voice assistant wakes up only when you are really calling its name.

Amazon’s new feature will make third-party smart devices more reliable and more competitive with the other products in the Echo product line, notes TechCrunch. The Echo may not always be perfect, but it is great when it comes to responding when the user is talking to it. It seems the e-commerce giant wants the same level of software on third-party devices powered by Alexa.

A spokeswoman told CNET that the same kind of feature is on the Echo speakers that use device and cloud-based technologies for verification. Separately, Amazon told TechCrunch recently that the Echo Look uses the same on-device keyword spotting as Echo to detect the wake word.

“When the wake word is detected, the light ring turns blue to indicate that Alexa is streaming audio to the AWS cloud,” the company said.

How this new Alexa feature works

Amazon’s new feature utilizes a sort of two-factor voice identification system. The first step is about the hardware, like Echo, Echo Dot, etc., handling the initial detection. Then the words pass through a secondary verification as a cloud-based process checks for a false positive. Amazon’s Wake Word Verification will direct the hardware to close the audio streaming if a false word is detected.

The additional processing will not slow down the response time of Alexa, but rather, it make communication with the smart assistant less irritating than before as it will not accidentally respond to questions the user never asked, says TechCrunch. Alexa will still wake up when it thinks that you summoned it, but it will quickly turn off the LED indicator and close the audio stream if the secondary check fails.

Amazon’s voice assistant is coming to several devices this year, so it was Amazon’s responsibility to make sure that the always-listening hardware devices wake up only when they are asked to. The Ecobee4 smart thermostat will be the first device to get the Wake Word Verification feature. To use the new feature, the third-party hardware developers will have to tweak their systems, said the e-commerce giant.

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Aman Jain
Personal Finance Writer

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