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Project Alias feeds smart speakers white noise to preserve privacy

January 16, 2019 / KYLE WIGGERS

Smart speakers have a problem: They occasionally record things they shouldn’t. In May of last year, a woman claimed that her Amazon Echo taped a private conversation and forwarded it to a person she didn’t know. And in December, a technical error resulted in Amazon sending an Alexa user 1,700 audio recordings of a stranger. It’s enough to give anyone the willies, but fortunately, a pair of developers have open-sourced a solution that prevents speakers like Google Home from listening in on people within earshot.Bjørn Karmann and Topp designer Tore Knudsen’s Project Alias takes the form of 3D-printed housing that attaches to the top of a smart speaker. Inside, a Raspberry Pi-powered microphone and dual-speaker combo produce white noise that prevents the target speaker from activating. An offline voice recognition algorithm trained using TensorFlow, Google’s open source machine learning framework, disables the static when Alias recognizes a custom wake...