Google and Amazon are constantly improving the capabilities of their voice AIs, but there are some issues that tech giants have little incentive to fix. For instance, it is not possible to make people change their assistant hotword from "Okay Google" or "Alexa" to anything else – even if that's what users want (and it definitely is, definitely). Bjørn Karmann and Tore Knudsen to create a Google Home / Amazon Echo hack called Project Alias.
The open-source project essentially boils down to putting a techie tinfoil cap on your digital assistant device. The cap, created using a Raspberry Pi, two speakers, a mic array, and a 3D printed shell, looks, and child of acts, like a parasitic fungus. Once you place it on the speaker it deafens the home assistant with inaudible static noise, rendering it useless. However, you can train the little gadget with local machine learning to list for your custom hotword ̵
Of course, this isn't the most elegant solution. Breaking into the shell and making an internal hardware adjustment would be more graceful (though it wouldn't be a simple task). It also seems pretty evident from the Project Alias video that will have to contend with a longer delay before the real device starts listening, making commands awkward. What's more, looking at the home of the home and the Echo, it seems to be the sensitive far-field mics, which would mean you should be close to the assistant for it to hear you – and it's unclear how the mic array Project Alias recommends compares to the Echo or Home's array, quality-wise
All that being said, it's still a relatively simple and (cruel) effective hack – and beyond that, it's just nice to see maker communities coming up With creative ways to hack hardware is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our households. Here's hoping there is more tinfoil has equivalents in our future.