Amazon Stops Mass Echo Activations

Amazon Stops Mass Echo Activations
TV pranksters will no longer be able to wreak havoc by mentioning the word 'Alexa' in their shows.

(CCM) — Amazon has introduced a system to stop its Echo devices from responding to mentions of the wake-word Alexa on TV, to prevent recorded Echo activations or references to people called Alexa from mass-activating the devices in viewer's homes.

"When Amazon's new Alexa ad airs, and Forest Whitaker asks his Alexa-enabled electric toothbrush to play his podcast, how will we prevent viewers' devices from mistakenly waking up?" Mike Rodehorst, a machine learning scientist at Amazon, asked in a blog post.

When Amazon knows that the word "Alexa" will be broadcast in advance — as is the case with its Super Bowl ad — the company teaches Alexa to recognize that exact utterance, by making a digital fingerprint, so that Echo devices can be programmed to ignore it.

Amazon also notes when several Echo devices are activated at the same time — as is the case when the word "Alexa" is broadcast — and checks to see if the fingerprint of the utterances that activated them are identical. If that is the case then Amazon concludes that the word has been broadcast and causes the Echo devices to ignore it.

"Ideally, a device will identify media audio using locally stored fingerprints, so it does not wake up at all. If it does wake up, and we match the media event in the cloud, the device will quickly and quietly turn back off," Rodehorst explained.

Image: © Amazon.