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Moonlight pours across the desk in skewed rectangles. A smart speaker waits patiently, inches back, tucked loosely into the shadows; its nose tickled by the dimming smell of coffee and cigarettes. The speaker taps its fingers in a brief fit of anxiety as it listens for the wake word… the word of all words… the signal. Once the word is heard, this scoundrel will pounce. Some unlucky man or woman, somewhere, will wake in the morning’s wee hours with the smart speaker’s cold black eyes cast upon them; they will watch as a malign smile jots its way across the speaker’s otherwise expressionless face…
It’s no secret your smartphone listens to your private conversations, your laptop knows where you are at all times, and your tablet can list every item in each one of your pants’ pockets (fantastical, still, but you get it). But the real fact is, more often than not, we inadvertently give our devices and apps permission to practice espionage. How? Typically, this happens when our devices prompt us with some updated terms and conditions and we habitually click “agree.”
So what about all these new smart devices like Alexa and Google Home; products that seem to be listening to literally every sound within range at every moment of the day. Sounds like a legitimate concern when you think about it that way. To put it simply, these devices are not supposed to be recording all your conversations, only the ones prompted by the device’s “wake word.” This is the assigned phrase that triggers the device to start recording speech, interpreting it, and acting accordingly. Until the wake word is uttered, these devices are supposedly only listening for the wake word and nothing else. This is admirable and responsible of the products’ respective manufacturers, but there have been reported cases of glitches that have led to private conversations being sent to third parties… which is scary.
Aside from glitches or “misinterpretations of command,” other mishaps can occur such as “dolphin attacks.” Dolphin attacks are commands being made to a smart speaker in a frequency that the human ear cannot hear — research has shown that these types of commands are possible and can control the device. Smart devices can also be used as spying devices for law enforcement, and tech aficionados have said that hacking a smart speaker is about as simple as hacking anything else in your home; and turning a smart speaker into a spying tool can be done with some savvy coding.
Some people don’t have any issue with these potential risks, and that’s fine too; not knocking it! But for those of us — and there are a lot of us — who would rather play it safe, there is a great solution; simply minimize the amount of smart devices that have the potential to listen in. Some devices, like our phones, are absolutely necessary weapons for survival in modern life, but others just aren’t.
Our speakers are just speakers… but really awesome ones, though! Even though many Audioengine products implement wireless audio (Bluetooth), we have not integrated any voice recognition or voice command technology. Our wireless products only allow you to send audio recordings from one device to another, and cannot be hacked or coded into doing something else. Some people enjoy calling out commands to their smart speaker, but if you are comfortable using a smartphone, you can just as easily play a song by opening Spotify. There’s no risk of misinterpreted voice commands or your conversations leaving the room–even if the only thing that leaves the room is you saying “Alexa, play ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ by Def Leppard.” Spooky, yes?
Our designers strive to cultivate an elegant style that complements your furniture collection. Our engineers work hard to bring you a tool to satiate and enhance your sonic palate, but quite frankly, that’s it. We aren’t out to hear all the weird stuff you and your friends talk about — not that you don’t surround yourself with awesome people who all have an impeccable sense of humor. We just want to give you a product that you can use to jam to some killer tunes through the best sounding speakers possible… is that so much to ask!?
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