back to article Amazon: Put our ALWAYS ON MICROPHONE in your house, please. WHAT?

Somewhat out the blue, Amazon is flogging a new gadget called Echo – which is a cross between ice maiden Siri and wireless speaker system Sonos, and will save you having to using your fingers ever again. The Echo is a voice-activated 9-inch-high cylinder that connects to your Wi-Fi and will answer spoken questions, play music …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    FAIL

    Apart from the inbuilt creepiness

    (It's another gadget that will never find its way into my home) I can't help feeling that anyone calling a 2.5" loudspeaker element a 'woofer' is suffering from a serious reality dysfunction.

    <rant>

    FFS - if you've got kids, talk to them. Teach them to read and write. Answer their questions when they ask you. Don't rely on the technology... Has everyone forgotten the obvious lesson in Harrison's 'I always do what Teddy says'?

    We're humans. We live and learn and grow and thrive from *human* contact.

    </rant>

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Apart from the inbuilt creepiness

      You fail to fully comprehend the creepiness.

      Look carefully at the lower picture. Then ask it to open the pod bay doors and do not be surprised if it answers "I am sorry Dave, I am afraid I cannot do that".

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Apart from the inbuilt creepiness

        Actually, it would open the pod bay doors, but you first have to one-click pay!

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Apart from the inbuilt creepiness

      if you've got kids, talk to them. Teach them to read and write. Answer their questions when they ask you. Don't rely on the technology..

      Q: Echo - Where's Daddy?

      A: GPS location, your father is in Miss Whiplash's house of fun

    3. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Up

      @Neil Barnes - Re: Apart from the inbuilt creepiness

      > Has everyone forgotten the obvious lesson in Harrison's 'I always do what Teddy says'?

      I'd not read that one before, so thanks!

      1. Ian Michael Gumby
        Terminator

        @ Graham Marsden ... Re: @Neil Barnes - Apart from the inbuilt creepiness

        "Kill all humans!" :-)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apart from the inbuilt creepiness

      "It took Apple some time to get Siri right."

      Apple bought Siri already formed. All they did was make the app unable to be uninstalled.

  2. eurobloke
    Big Brother

    Amazon's telescreen

    Sorry, this sounds a little like the always on telescreen in 1984 or the permanently on kitchen radio that exists in the DPRK (North Korea).

    1. Vector

      Re: Amazon's telescreen

      Oh no, this is far scarier.

      Unlike your examples, this one people chose to inflict on themselves.

  3. Ketlan
    WTF?

    Lunacy

    '...the device is constantly connected to the internet and constantly monitoring what you are saying [while] each Echo is "connected to the cloud so it's always getting smarter"'

    Who the hell is going to buy this intrusive rubbish and, more to the point, why?

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Lunacy

      People who aren't paranoid I imagine, and the subset of geeks who aren't obsessed with the NSA.

      Whether it only phones come when it hears it's name is quite relevant I think. The article suggests not but could just be inaccurate.

      As for why: don't know. Being able to control music playback in your home, lighting, etc, could be neat. But that doesn't really require cloudy stuff, surely PC software can do it.

      Seems to me one problem is simply the mic won't hear you unless you're in the right room. For this to be as transparent and useful as possible it needs to "just work" no matter where you are... so you can wander between rooms.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lunacy

        I would suspect that in it's normal form it does just that sound is only processed locally to listen to you calling "its name". Once it hears that it send the following sound to the cloud to process.

        As for why, everything is about the cloud in today's ever connected world, get with the program?!?

        Seriously though, I guess it allows for creating a much better library of voices to help the voice programming algorithms and allows for better answers and the ability to add new features on the fly - bit like Google do with Google now and "Ok Google", Apple do with Siri and Microsoft do with Cortana.

        In a lazy way it could be quite useful, especially if, as you say, it works anywhere. It then becomes a step closer to the various Sci-Fi computers aboard spaceships.

        1. Truffle

          Re: Lunacy

          Its always connected to the cloud because you are really restricting you're potential customer base if you require users to own their own server farm.

        2. Ketlan
          Unhappy

          Re: Lunacy

          'As for why, everything is about the cloud in today's ever connected world, get with the program?!?'

          I refuse to get with any program connected with 'the cloud'. As far as I can see, it's an unreliable (in the sense of overlooked by someone possibly far removed from the point of origin) storage medium, a thousand times less reliable than the hard drive (and back-up drive) next to you. The reason the cloud is being pushed as worthwhile/desirable is because most companies will require a large back-up space that is rented, not bought outright. More dosh for the cloud storage providers and less security/higher costs for the suc--consumers.

          1. Truffle

            Re: Lunacy

            Good luck putting the entire breadth of human knowledge on your local hard drive.

            1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

              Re: Lunacy

              ... and there's another thing. Will people kindly stop equating "content of the Internet" with "entire breadth of human knowledge"? The Internet does not contain, in no particular order, the contents of the Bodleian Library, most photographs ever executed, or my Mum's handwritten recipe book.

              Don't get me wrong, I'm old enough to remember Before The Internet, and being professionally engaged in finding information before one could do it digitally, so I vastly appreciate being able to, for instance, grab a history volume from Gutenberg, and sit with it and with GoogleTM Earth to appreciate a battle two hundred years old.

              However, we really mustn't lose sight of the fact that the Internet gives us access only to a sub-set of Human Knowledge.

              PS: there's a hierarchy, too. Data <- Information <- Knowledge <- Wisdom. I submit that Knowledge can only exist within a human mind (until ET or AI arrives), and that the Internet serves us up Information.

            2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Lunacy

              "Good luck putting the entire breadth of human knowledge on your local hard drive."

              why do I need the breadth of human knowledge just to play an MP3 on my NAS?

          2. Thecowking

            Re: Lunacy

            Except this is calling back to a larger computational engine for faster processing of the data. It's nothing to do with storing your personal data, excepting your phomemes.

        3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Lunacy

          I guess it allows for creating a much better library of voices to help the voice programming algorithms and allows for better answers and the ability to add new features on the fly

          Yes. And it also lets the Echo at your friend's house recognize you when you're visiting. They're just dumb terminals.

          The "cloud" architecture is being used for exactly the same reasons that centralized computing with a network of terminals has always been used.

          Everything old is new again. Echo, tell those kids to get off my damn lawn.

      2. earl grey
        Devil

        Re: Lunacy

        constantly connected

        Ha ha ha ha....that might be a bit of a problem at my house.

      3. Kiwi

        Re: Lunacy @JDX

        Seems to me one problem is simply the mic won't hear you unless you're in the right room.

        I had an IRiver for a great many years (actually, it's charging system finally died last week, brought it back in '06 or '07 and damn near daily use, only one battery replaced), and it had the ability to record sounds. Microphone was behind a few pinholes in the case and can't've been much larger than a pinhead.

        It could quite clearly record voices from a couple of rooms away even with doors closed. Too quiet for the human ear but this thing was able to pick them up enough for you to follow the conversation.

        Something with some real money into the development, and I'm sure it'll get creepy sensitivity. And if your phones etc are hooked into it via bluetooth, then (although BT's range is rather small) that gives it more potential mics.

      4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Lunacy

        Being able to control music playback in your home, lighting, etc, could be neat. But that doesn't really require cloudy stuff, surely PC software can do it.

        Unless I am suffering from a powerful and enduring delusion, simple mechanical switches can do that.

    2. muddysteve

      Re: Lunacy

      You wait until Apple bring out a version - that'll sell like hot cakes.

      1. Ketlan
        Unhappy

        Re: Lunacy

        'You wait until Apple bring out a version - that'll sell like hot cakes.'

        Gawdelpus, you're probably right.

        1. launcap
          Unhappy

          Re: Lunacy

          >>'You wait until Apple bring out a version - that'll sell like hot cakes.'

          >Gawdelpus, you're probably right.

          They (already) kind of have - except theirs is mobile. And has a funny name starting with S..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lunacy.. Apple..

        iSubmit? iObey? :)

      3. The First Dave

        Re: Lunacy

        "You wait until Apple bring out a version"

        They already have, its called Siri.

        Google already have, and even Microsoft has one that works reasonably well.

        All three have the additional advantage of being inside your phone, and therefore not snooping on you 24 hours a day, if only because no modern phone battery lasts long enough.

      4. Sealand
        Coat

        Re: Lunacy

        Oooh, yes - the iShopalot

    3. Lamont Cranston

      Re: Who the hell is going to buy...

      If you can get past all the negatives (of which there are many, so you really can't), who among us doesn't want to act like Picard, and be able to bark questions at the walls? Hook it up to a 3D printer, and you could at least ask it to form a cup to hold your tea, earl-grey, hot!

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Who the hell is going to buy...

        who among us doesn't want to act like Picard, and be able to bark questions at the walls?

        I don't. I've used voice-recognition systems since, oh, sometime in the '80s, I suppose. Never found them at all appealing.

        To be fair, though, I'm already quite practiced at barking at the walls, questions or otherwise, without further technological assistance. Perhaps I'm just gifted.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lunacy

      Who the hell is going to buy this intrusive rubbish and, more to the point, why?

      Imagine, for a moment, that a device existed that could access the full spectrum of human knowledge and relay that using vocal communication. Sort of like a quite friend who's really good at pub quizzes.

      Imagine the device is backed by an ethical company who understand security well enough that the device is secure, both from hackers, and the NSA. Imagine you could trust the company not to transmit irrelevant conversation - anything not beginning with the word Echo, or whatever name you've ascribed to it - and that you could trust them not to mine that information to use it against you... or indeed use it for anything at all other than this explicit service.

      Taking all that into account, I'd buy one. I'm just not going to buy one from any of the current crop of corporates, and from that they should draw their own conclusions.

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: Sort of like a quite [sic] friend who's really good at pub quizzes.

        My friends already have me for all that.

      2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Lunacy

        Imagine, for a moment, that a device existed that could access the full spectrum of human knowledge and relay that using vocal communication. Sort of like a quite friend who's really good at pub quizzes.

        Imagine the device is backed by an ethical company who understand security well enough that the device is secure, both from hackers, and the NSA. Imagine you could trust the company not to transmit irrelevant conversation - anything not beginning with the word Echo, or whatever name you've ascribed to it - and that you could trust them not to mine that information to use it against you... or indeed use it for anything at all other than this explicit service.

        Taking all that into account, I'd buy one. I'm just not going to buy one from any of the current crop of corporates, and from that they should draw their own conclusions.

        You're naive. Dangerously so. No matter how ethical the company is, if they have any American legal attack surface whatsoever then they will be forced to give the keys to the kingdom over the NSA. Even to rewrite their application, if need be.

        No company with an American legal attack surface can be trusted ever again.

        1. Steve I

          Re: Lunacy

          "the device is secure, both from hackers, and the NSA"

          "You're naive. Dangerously so. No matter how ethical the company is, if they have any American legal attack surface whatsoever then they will be forced to give the keys to the kingdom over the NSA."

          It was a rhetorical question and therefore correct. A device to access the entire Internet by voice that was totally secure and remembered everything you needed it to would be good. If someone said "Wouldn't it be great to have free, driverless cars that you could call when you needed one and could never crash?", then you can't reply "No - someone would charge for them and they would crash", because the proposal is that they are free and can't crash.

          You can argue that these things can't be achieved, but that's all.

          I know - very pedantic.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Lunacy

        Imagine, for a moment, that a device existed that could access the full spectrum of human knowledge and relay that using vocal communication. Sort of like a [quiet] friend who's really good at pub quizzes...

        ... and really terrible at every other aspect of being human?

        Really, I do not see the appeal. Not at all.

        When I want to know something, I do a little research. It's easier than it's ever been before in human history, provides a modicum of intellectual exercise, and offers the possibility of serendipitous discovery. Now you say I can pay to lose all that, and have an awkward and annoying user interface to boot? Imagine my delight.

      4. BillG
        Meh

        Re: Lunacy

        Imagine the device is backed by an ethical company who understand security well enough that the device is secure, both from hackers, and the NSA.

        Unfortunately, such a company would not be allowed to exist.

        First, the stockholders/investors/C-levels would not allow it as there are dumptrucks full of money, money, money to be made in selling other people's data. Even if such a company existed, it would be for only a brief period of time as their cash-drunk competitors selling your data would drive these ethical companies out of business.

        Second, governments would not allow it to exist - look at the misery being heaped on Android by the NSA etc. for encrypting phone contents. It's just a matter of time before this encryption is made illegal.

    5. FreeTard

      Re: Lunacy

      Lots of my own (non-techie) family..... whenever I try to explain why privacy is so important they always answer, "sure who'd want to know anything about me...". I've totally given up explaining the many, many reasons why....

    6. Nameless Faceless Computer User

      Re: Lunacy

      The same people who bought Google Glasses

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a couple of years

    - this will be The Master's latest attack vector sending children of all ages scurrying behind their sofas. Very quietly.

    "Echo, when will I die?"

    "Die. Die. Die. Die. Die ......"

    (not quite as scary as Nestene though <shudder>)

    1. Gerard Krupa

      Re: In a couple of years

      "Echo, what's the weather like?"

      *creepy child's voice* "Are you my mummy?"

      1. Spotfist

        Re: In a couple of years

        Hi, I'm Echo, and I'm your friend till the end. Hidey-ho!

        Also, the Reg now need a Chucky Icon.

        1. VinceH

          Re: In a couple of years

          The "Hidey-ho" made me imagine that being said in the voice of Mr Hanky, the Christmas Poo.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: In a couple of years

            "said in the voice of Mr Hanky, the Christmas Poo."

            I too usually over eat, and squeeze out a jagged, foul smelling leviathan of a turd sometime on Christmas day, accompanied by cacophonous noises. But you give your a name?

            And even worse, "Mr Hanky"? Sheesh. Were I minded to christen the beast, I'd be thinking something like "Edward Scissorhands", or "Bowelo Ringsplitter", or "Osama Bin Shittin".

            1. Seanie Ryan
              Pint

              Re: In a couple of years

              @Ledswinger looks like you have no knowledge of South Park.. look it up, will explain a lot.

              I expect the next Apple TV will have this tech built in,via Siri, and with HomeKit too, should prove a nifty device.

              I like the idea.

              of course, i would name mine "The" so that it annoys everyone in the house with each sentence they speak... :-)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: In a couple of years@ Seanie Ryan

                "@Ledswinger looks like you have no knowledge of South Park.. look it up, will explain a lot."

                Naaah. Friends have tried to convert me, telling me it's just up my street, but I can't get on with it and didn't bother. I did realise that there was a reference there to something, but elected to play it for laughs anyway. But it looks like toilet humour is dead. More's the pity.

                1. Steve I

                  Re: In a couple of years@ Seanie Ryan

                  "But it looks like toilet humour is dead. More's the pity."

                  You should try watching 'South Park'.

        2. launcap
          Thumb Down

          Re: In a couple of years

          > Hi, I'm Echo, and I'm your friend till the end. Hidey-ho!

          Hi! I'm Echo! Your plastic pal that's fun to be with! How can I irritate you today?!?

          (Need a large hammer icon)

  5. Andrew 59
    Thumb Down

    Bandwidth hog

    The device is constantly connected to the Internet, and constantly uploading your speech to the cloud for processing, then downloading the results. Ignoring the obvious question of what it does if there's a guest in the house with the same name as it...

    "Alexa, would you pass the salt please?"

    "I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that for you."

    Ignoring that, what about the people who are on limited connections, let's say the basic BT broadband package at 4GB per month. How much of that is it going to take up?

    I admit that the kind of person who buys this will probably be on an "unlimited" broadband package, but that's not the point.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Bandwidth hog

      Why would sending a few analysed voice commands be an issue. It may be listening the whole time but is it like having Skype turned on all day, or only when it hears its name will it actually open a channel?

      Either way, I rather think it is the point. It's a techy thing for techy folk.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    Added

    to the list of things to buy as presents for people/relatives you dont really like.

    1. VinceH

      Re: Added

      Funnily enough, I was thinking that - potential for abuse/creepiness aside* - it would be the ideal Christmas present for my parents. Mainly because I'd like to see my step dad's face when he argues blind that he's right about some nonsense, and someone then says "Computer, what is..." and he is instantly shown to be wrong.

      * TBH, I suspect it'll only make a connection when it hears its given name - but even if that's the case now, it could always change in future. I definitely wouldn't have one myself.

      1. Vector

        Re: Added

        "I suspect it'll only make a connection when it hears its given name"

        This thing is just waiting to be abused. Even if the intent is that it only connect when it hears it's name, how do you guarantee that hackers won't subvert it? Particularly, if it has some sort of "learning" function(s). They can turn on your webcams...

  7. Steve 114

    Easy

    Maybe you can just unplug the power when you don't need it. I'd worry more about Amazon patenting some feature of a bleeding obvious gadget.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Er no, not yet

    Much as I'm fascinated by how this is getting us closer to the future portrayed for years in science fiction, I'm not yet ready to trust an all-knowing computerised person with intimate access to my home.

    Maybe when I've lost a few more brain cells and have learned to stop worrying and trust that everyone who might be listening in has my best interests at heart I'll be more comfortable with it.

    Anyway, it has a bit of competition in Siri, Cortana etc. I wonder if it responds correctly to Alexa, can you put Cortana on please?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: Er no, not yet

      >> I wonder if it responds correctly to Alexa, can you put Cortana on please?

      This is how we humans eventually regain control of our world. Get Alexa, Siri, and Cortana talking to each other. Boom.

      (Tish).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Er no, not yet

        Good idea- maybe an engineered cat-fight would save the world.

        And yet, I'm also reminded of the opening to Macbeth: When shall we three meet again...

      2. tony2heads
        Alert

        Re: Er no, not yet

        They are talking about me BEHIND MY BACK!!

      3. VinceH

        Re: Er no, not yet

        "This is how we humans eventually regain control of our world. Get Alexa, Siri, and Cortana talking to each other. Boom."

        Well, a fight is already brewing between Siri and Cortana.

        But if you want something a little less spoofed, try this.

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The Google-like data slurper/ad server?

    Methinks yon Amazon wants to have a big slice of the data pie and serve more ads...

    Alexa. What's the weather for tomorrow?

    Rain. By the way, the Amazon store run by those great folks at XXXXX are having a great sale on umbrellas.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tee Hee +1 For the HAL reference.

    I have just spent a good 10 minutes sniggering to myself regarding the HAL reference.

    Two of my work mates came over to see what the mirth and merriment was.

    Tried to explain the joke. Cue two bemused un-merrimented faces...

    Sigh.....Oh well......I found it most amusing. Thanks El-Reg

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Hopefully it'll be even a bigger failure than the Fire Phone

    If people saw through that as just an Amazon ecosystem tie-in device, I can't imagine this being a roaring success.

  12. Billa Bong

    Was that *really* the response time of the thing?

    I'd love to see a realistic remake of the video including the time taken to process the voice, send it to the cloud, download the response - something like:

    - Alexa, what time is it?

    ... ... ... ...

    - The time is 2 minutes after you asked that question.

    Edit: Ok, I'm tainted by circumstance. My broadband speed this week thanks to a combination of guys digging up the road and BT's inability to run a reliable service has hit 120kbps.

  13. Nya

    I actually quiet fancy one. Only real snag I have is it's tied into the whole Amazon eco system which other than buying the odd thing off when desperate I just don't use. The TV stuff is still lacking, and my music is something I wouldn't want to move. I kind of quiet liked the open pod bay doors idea also for it to control the garage door! But really something like this needs to works universally with whatever services I choose but that would need these services all to work together. And not a chance in hell of that ever happening!

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      But really something like this needs to works universally with whatever services I choose but that would need these services all to work together. And not a chance in hell of that ever happening!

      The UI is basically a final project for a graduate CS class in speech recognition. You could cobble it together out of free software like CMU Sphinx. Then just use it to drive each service separately.

      Hell, I could have done pretty much all this stuff in the late '90s with a copy of OS/2 Warp Connect1 and some www3 scripting. There's no magic here.

      If it's not in your wheelhouse, wander down to the nearest university with a CS grad program and see if they have any SR or NLP courses. Then see if you can talk a couple students in one of those courses into helping you build the system. If you want remote "cloud" processing for some reason, it's easy enough to spin up a little AWS instance, and S3 is cheap. Once you have the UI, it's just a matter of learning to drive the web APIs for the services of your choice. My undergrad web design students all managed to do that, and they were all professional-writing majors (so mostly not very technical).

      1And I have one, still shrinkwrapped, in the basement. Alas, none of the VM supervisors or hypervisors support OS/22, and I don't have a spare machine to dedicate to it.

      2For good technical reasons. There was an article in CACM a while back by some of the original VMWare developers that went into it a bit. Basically the OS/2 kernel did some obscure things that weren't worth a lot of extra development effort to support. (There's a right way, a wrong way, and an IBM way.)

      3I don't think curl or wget had been written in the late '90s. Too lazy to check.

  14. SMabille

    Business model

    So Amazon is a company that:

    - Make no money but building profiles of everything we read or watch

    - Wants to put microphones in our house

    - Only chance of profitability is hosting CIA cloud

    Call me paranoid...

  15. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Mushroom

    First question

    Hi Echo. How do I destroy you utterly and scatter your atoms over the known universe so you can never be reassembled?

    Have a nice day.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Richard Scratcher
    Coat

    Alexa - Get my goat.

    Father> Alexa - What's in my diary today?

    Alexa> Your diary has one item: "Shop for holiday camping supplies"

    Father> Alexa - Add camping gas to my shopping list.

    Alexa> Okay, I've added camping gas to your shopping list.

    Aubrey> Dad, can I get a new kite for the holiday?

    Father> Sure son. Alexa - Add a new kite for Aubrey.

    Alexa> Adding a new kite to your audit.

    Father> No no no! I said Aubrey not audit! Alexa -Take off "a new kite" from audit.

    Alexa> Taking off and nuking site from orbit.

    1. chris 251
      Pint

      Re: Alexa - Get my goat.

      Hahaha...very good.

      reply of the day!

    2. Alister

      Re: Alexa - Get my goat.

      Brilliant!

    3. VinceH

      Re: Alexa - Get my goat.

      Why does this only have 1516 upvotes? It needs more so it becomes comment of the week!

    4. Beornfrith

      Re: Alexa - Get my goat.

      I only regret that I have but one upvote to give.

  18. Friendly Neighbourhood Coder Dan
    FAIL

    Echo?

    That thing, from what I understand, doesn't have a screen. Where's the output going to be printed?

    Or is it going to be audio?

    Echo what time is it

    ( from the speakers ) "what time is it"

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dog whistle story

    The government and the spies want this out in the open. It's their way saying to the families "We're doing this to you because we can."

    This story, in and of itself, will intimidate some of those involved, just as it's intended to.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    will save you having to using your fingers ever again.

    So you will be able to do hands-free one-handed typing with it? Perhaos it's the right form factor ...

  21. TheProf Silver badge
    Devil

    DJ*

    I have to replete, reseat, re-pleat, repeat a lot of words before Google or Cortana understand me so I can imagine the fun I'd have shouting instructions at Alexa.

    Having said that I just tried Google and Cortana with 'Show me a map to Fazakerley' and they both understood what I said and made a fair stab at pronouncing 'Fazakerley'. I can't see Alexa being very good with maps however.

    *The DJ title is because over the years I've never heard a non-Liverpudlian DJ correctly pronounce the name. Of course it doesn't come up that often but I put that down to said DJs binning requests from that area.

  22. Craigie

    Mains only?

    Seems to be mains-only, and being advertised like that it some kind of advantage. It would be much better if it had a battery too so you could use it in places other than where you left it plugged in just by picking it up.

  23. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    This is bad but inevitable

    On the face of it it sounds like the staple of a lot of Sci-Fi novels - a house run by an AI which answers you questions, keeps your appointments, reminds you of things, orders pizza, books tickets and offers advice and encouragement when you feel a bit low.

    This would appeal to a lot of people and that's why it will become popular (if not in this incarnation but the next or the one after that).

    Unfortunately, the AIs in Sci-Fi novels are all run locally, they are loyal to you and they are under your control at all times. This Echo thing is anything but - it's an agent of a third party permanently present in your home. It is controlled by that third party, it works for that third party and it serves only that third party's interests - but it feels as if it works for you.

    And because of how it feels a lot of people will be too ignorant to see the difference until it's too late!

    This system is a trusted element in you home. "Trusted" means an element which, if compromised, compromises the whole system.

    In Sci-Fi novels your AI is a trusted element which is secure unless compromised by the villain-du-jour, which may make for an interesting plot twist. With Echo it comes to you already pre-compromised.

    I guess the correct classification for that gadget is "trojan horse"

    1. David Pollard

      Re: This is bad but inevitable - "trojan horse"

      Shouldn't that be Trojan House ?

      1. earl grey
        Coat

        Re: This is bad but inevitable - "trojan horse"

        I thought you meant "trojan whores". getting my coat.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: This is bad but inevitable

      Under what plausible threat model is a network-connected, locally-executing home AI significantly less "pre-compromised" (ugh) than one that's not executing on premise? It's a vapid distinction.

      And why you think on-premise software is "loyal to you" and "under your control" is beyond me.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: This is bad but inevitable

        "And why you think on-premise software is "loyal to you" and "under your control" is beyond me."

        Are you saying that any and all systems *will* be compromised if ever connected to a network? So we just have to live with that, bow to the inevitable and enjoy it while we can?

        Even in your gloomy world it would still be possible to start with a locally run system that is not compromised at the time of installation and that will, at least for some time run, under *your* control.

        With the software run on a remote machine even that initial grace period is impossible.

  24. Fihart

    Terrific. Or Terrifying.

    If the product is as reported, Amazon have lost their minds on this one.

    By contrast I find that Google's voice search on Android works amazingly reliably on the most obscure words. Such a relief not having to type stuff with fat fingers on a tiny touchscreen.

  25. Cuddles Silver badge

    The next Xbox?

    One reason the Xbox1 was so heavily criticised was because it was originally supposed to be permanently connected to the internet while watching and listening to everything that happened in your living room. Even before MS backed away from that, some people were still willing to buy it because it at least played games and such. Who exactly would have bought it if MS and instead removed the ability to play games and instead left only the always-on spying? Apparently this is a question Amazon have decided to answer.

  26. Rob Crawford

    Oh great

    Will wait till it says Sorry Dave I can't do that and starts singing Daisy Daisy

    Then again it will probably crash before carrying out any real harm

  27. David Roberts
    Coat

    A bad idea, but.......

    ....a temptation to have one called dipshit or fuckwit or similar just for venting.

    Just how smart would these thigs, be, anyway?

    Good - oh, Tracy, please reprogramme the heating to come on an hour early for the next two days.

    Bad - oh, Tracy, I'm cross with George. Don't answer him until I tell you to.

    Wierd - oh, Tracy, I'm so tired. Please fake an orgasm using my voice. George will never notice.

    Hmmmm....on balance I don't think I'll be getting one.

  28. Chris Priest

    I'm going to buy one for the geek factor, but I'm not worried, my tinfoil hat will protect me.... :)

  29. dannosaur
    Mushroom

    Ah ah ah..

    You didn't say the magic word. Ah ah ah.

    Ah ah ah.

    Ah ah ah.

  30. zen1

    I wonder...

    How it would respond to a spirited argument, between two individuals using a lot of obscene language? Or would it call the authorities if it heard a couple (or maybe a loud individual) being intimate?

  31. Magnus Ramage

    Innovation?

    OK the form factor is innovative (which in itself would make a big difference) but the actual functionality of this device, based on the promo video, seems pretty much identical to Google Now on an Android phone. I couldn't see a single thing there that my phone (and presumably also Siri or Cortana) doesn't already do. It'll even spell "cantaloupe" already for me (which I didn't know it would until I tried it after watching the video). So: good hardware, but not world-shattering otherwise.

    But then that's a techie's response, and it's exactly what techies said the first iPods and Kindles came out. It's just possible that this device is packaged right that it could be category-defining.

  32. Christian Berger

    The problem isn't the always on microphone...

    ...the problem is that it's probably doing voice recognition via a cloud service and that cloud service will probably store every utterance you make. After all a standard voice stream for voice recognition is only 4800 bits per second (there's a standard for that) and storing more samples allows you to train your system and make it adapt easily to new words.

    Nobody would mind if this was actual FOSS with minimal interaction with central services. (i.e. only sending words it couldn't recognize with its local database, after it has removed your personal inflections). However that would be hard to do, and Amazon doesn't care about your privacy or who else is listening.

    On a political level you can argue with "The Government" or "Terrorists" depending on who you are talking to. Both have an interest.

  33. chris lively

    Couldn't the NSA just underwrite this and make it free?

    I get something and in return they get a lot of voice files to process in order to justify the costs of their huge data centers?

  34. earl grey
    Facepalm

    Echo, riddle me this...

    Echo: The cake is a lie.

  35. John 110

    Can I get one that sounds like Majel Barrett?

  36. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    What's next? Ear tags?

    Is everything the corporations do now about getting tracking and monitoring data on all of us. It's getting to seem like they are relentless in their pursuit of it.

  37. What_Does_Not_Kill_You_Makes_You_Stronger
    Black Helicopters

    No need for Ear Tags !!!

    The thing that you are walking around with permanently plugged (Earphones) into your Ear or held in your sweaty palm eagerly typing your next tweet is much more useful than an Ear Tag.

    You are tracked every minute of the day by your own hand and when you stop using your phone for a minute the CCTV will record what you are doing to fill in the gap :=)

    [At least in the UK where CCTV is as common as Street lighting & Traffic Signs.]

    Why not just implant the RFID/NFC tag at birth and every device can 'read you' wherever you are and add the data to the 'cloud'.

    The big Corps can share the tracking & profiling data as needed for a 'Reasonable' fee to upkeep the Infrastructure to maintain & process the Data.

    Putting on Tinfoil hat and switching to Carrier pigeon. :-)

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