Disable ‘always-listening’ on your smart home assistant

Project Alias, the newest creation of Amsterdam-based maker Bjørn Karmann, allows you to rename your home assistant and, more importantly, paralyse the device’s always-on listening function — for better security.

Always-on home assistants

Love them or hate them, devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo have become a staple in many homes, thanks to people’s desire to automate mundane chores. I mean, why think about vacuuming my home when my Echo Dot can tell my robot hoover to do it for me?

However, despite their convenience, one concern remains for users of most off-the-shelf products: the always-on, always listening function.

As stories of TV ads prompting unwanted purchases via Amazon surface and South Park commandeers people’s devices via a rather ingenious episode script, more and more people are looking for ways to plug their home assistants’ ears, so to speak.

But how do you get something to do your bidding without it always listening for your commands?

Introducing Project Alias

Bjørn Karmann’s Project Alias serves two purposes: it lets you rename your assistant however you see fit (hello Trogdor!), and it paralyses the device’s always-listening function, taking over command. Then, instead of Amazon/Google/etc. listening to the comings and goings in your home, it’s a headless Raspberry Pi 3A+. And as the Raspberry Pi doesn’t need an internet connection in order to do its thing, the only one listening to you in your home is your significant other, your kids or, in my case, two obnoxious house bunnies.

Bjørn has provided a STL file to let prospective Project Alias makers 3D print their own modern-looking case for the 3A+. And the setup tutorial and complete code are on his GitHub.

Once the add-on is built, you simply access the Project Alias trainer via your phone’s browser and tell your home assistant its new name.

And there you have it: an augemented home assistant that does your bidding without you needing to be concerned about who is listening at the other end.

Other potential names for your home assistant

Now you have Project Alias set up on your Amazon Echo or Google Home, here are some names we think you should use:

  • Hey there Delilah
  • Hey-ay, baby
  • Hey ya!
  • Hey Hei

10 comments

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This is a cool workaround to the pressing concern of privacy and the use of these personal assistant devices. It’s one thing for them to be gathering “normal data” on your usage of the device. I.E. Nothing worse than logging into their webpage and purchasing something or using their search engine to find stuff. It’s an entirely different matter for it to even be possible that they could record everything said in your home.

Given the privacy concerns, I’d be much more likely to tinker with one of my Raspberry Pis to create my own personal assistant. Than to trust the current iterations of personal assistant like devices.

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Trogdor!!!

Alex Bate

Trogdor was a man. I mean, he was a dragon-man. Or maybe he was just a dragon…but he was still TROOOOOGDOOOOORRRR!

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I was thinking something along these lines

*Stressful and time limited situation setting*
“Try to open the god damn door!”
“Try to open the god damn door!”
“Try …open … god damn door!”
“Try ….. o..n god d… door…”
“Tr…o….g..d.door….”
“Trogdor….”
“Trogdor….”
“Trogdor….”

Oh well…

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Yeah, I’m not sure why people don’t just monitor their router traffic coming from their Home device and enable/disable that traffic if they really wanted to. Or better yet, monitor it and see that it really isn’t sending data unless the trigger phrase is spoken.

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Does this work if you also use the Pi online and/or as the Voice Assistant device? Or does it require an Amazon/Google device with an offline Pi to remove the always listening privacy concern?

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For people wanting a home assistant and concerned about their privacy, they can have a look at Snips : https://snips.ai/ (I’m not related to the company anyhow, just interested by the concept).

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Knowing what you know about these things, do you really want one in your home/office?

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How does it paralyze the always listening function?

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wow!

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