A "Parasite" Device Inspired by Zombie Ants Will Stop Alexa from Spying on You
Inspired by the Cordyceps parasitic fungus that takes control of insect's brains, creators Bjørn Karmann and Tore Knudsen created their own "parasite" smart home system.
The device was built as a response to the increasing lack of privacy in the modern world. Its purpose is to give control back to users of smart home assistants by blocking the devices from always listening.
Redefining smart home technologies
There is growing concern over privacy surrounding the Internet of Things, and with good reason; a lot of smart devices include microphones that are always on.
Companies like Amazon reportedly hire thousands of employees to listen to conversations picked up on the devices, and a University of Michigan study last year showed that many are resigned to a loss of privacy in the modern world.
Not so for Karmann and Kunsen, who created Alias, a device whose purpose is to "redefine our relationship with smart home technologies, by delegating more power from the designers to the end users of the products."
The device, as seen in the image above, is a "smart parasite" that fits on top of your Alexa or Google Home device and stops it from listening to your conversations.
How does it work?
Powered by Raspberry Pi, Alias feeds a low constant noise into the smart home device's microphone.
Alias only stops projecting the sound when it hears its own wake word, which you can program to be any word you like.
Once the "smart parasite" hears this wake word, it will turn off its sound allowing the Google Home or the Alexa underneath to listen to your voice command.
Alias will then start blocking the microphone again after 30 seconds when an LED light will signal that the sound will start up again.
Built as part of Project Alias, Alias, unfortunately, doesn't solve the whole problem. With every vocal request that Alias allows to be processed by an Alexa or Google Home smart home assistant, the companies use the information to build out a profile, often leading to targeted ads.
Despite this, it will put smart home assistant users, who worry about being constantly listened to, at ease.
An electronic accessory you can buy to fight another electronic home accessory you can willingly buy; it's a scary prospect that something like this might do well in today's market.
Many people criticize the usage of AI in art for so many reasons. These tools need to be explored, understood, and debated in an unbiased way.