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mun3 avatar image
mun3 asked

Custom "wake word"

Hi According to the Getting Started page, the wake word for Echo and Echo Dot is "Alexa". Could this be customised on our own devices? That is, if we were device makers, could we change "Alexa" to our product name, e.g., "Foobar"? Thanks
alexa skills kitdebugging
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jjaquinta avatar image
jjaquinta answered
No. It can only be Alexa, Amazon or Echo. April Hamilton has written a good article on why this is the case and it is unlikely to ever change. http://lovemyecho.com/2015/11/11/echo-custom-wake-words-why-isnt-this-a-thing-yet/ But you can go +1 the request thread for custom wake words if you like.
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Galactoise avatar image
Galactoise answered
So, while April's article is great (although, I believe that missing feature is more one of branding than technology), that wasn't the question he asked. He was specifically asking about custom hardware. In the context of your own hardware, the answer is "absolutely". In terms of matching utterances, you don't need the word "Alexa" at all. That's literally just a trigger to switch your Echo into an active listening state. You can see this in the way the Voice Remote is used. If you have a remote, and you're doing push-to-talk, you don't say "Alexa, ask InsultiBot to insult Jeff Bezos". You simply hold the button and say "ask InsultiBot to insult Jeff Bezos". The button press serves the equivalent function of the wake word. What this means is that the wake word isn't part of the utterance that Alexa uses to figure out which path through the voice model to follow. As such, if you have your own hardware using Alexa Voice Service, you can theoretically have it use whatever method you want to get it to start listening. There are a couple caveats here, though: 1. If you're building your own device that passively listens for a wake word, you obvious will have to deal with the technical challenges listed in April's article. 2. I'm fairly certain (although I can't find the source) that at some point Amazon said that they didn't want people using AVS with passive far-field voice tech. What that all really adds up to is "You can almost certainly do it, but it may not be worth your time to do".
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jjaquinta avatar image
jjaquinta answered
Thanks, Galactoise, I missed that. You are right on all points. I can also confirm that it is, indeed, against the AVS terms of use to use voice activation for any AVS service. Amazon reserve that right to themselves. You can only use push-to-talk. This came up at the recent meet-up in Boston. An Amazonian, at first, actively encouraged people to do voice activation. I queried if the terms had changed, and he back-pedaled and say that you can't "in a commercial product". As for their reasons for this, I personally think that at one level it was to ensure a lack of competition with the Echo (and related products) itself. On another level it may be a liability thing. Sort of like Apple (or was it Android) forbidding spoken turn-by-turn instructions on any map app. If someone drives off the road because their phone is babbling at them, they are much more likely to sue the rich company that owns the platform, rather than the fly-by-night software provider. I'm not quite sure what use case the Amazon lawyers are trying to prevent, but I'm sure there is one.
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mun3 avatar image
mun3 answered
When performing far-field voice recognition, does the device constantly/regularly upload captures to the detection service to pick out the wake-word? If so, that'd potentially require a lot of traffic.
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jjaquinta answered
My understanding is that the Echo is always listening and it is hard coded into the device what is needed to recognize the wake word. (Another reason changes are unlikely.) Someone estimated it can keep up to 9 seconds of voice in memory based on the chips on the board. Once it recognizes the wake word it then turns on the blue light and starts streaming everything from that point on to the internet. Basically, as long as the blue light is on, everything you say is being streamed to Amazon over the internet.
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cdburns123 avatar image
cdburns123 answered
I would like to point out there are several software programs that use a wake-up word or attention word...and allow the person to change what that attention word is. They aren't cloud based and that may be the reason behind it all, not sure. There was an article that the new Tap was push button due to battery life. Not that they were bent on making you push a button for attention, but due to the battery limits it would cause by having the device always listening. My Galaxy does give spoken turn-by-turn directions, at least it allows me to keep my hands and eyes on the task of driving instead of looking at a screen every few seconds. I see it less distracting that talking on a hands-free phone call.
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S. Stormacq avatar image
S. Stormacq answered

As per Alexa Functional Guide https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/alexa/alexa-voice-service/content/alexa-voice-service-functional-design-guide, third party hardware MUST have a button or GUI element to start an Alexa interaction (1.3). It MIGHT be activated by a wake word too (2). That wake word MUST be "Alexa" (2.1)

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kidtreo avatar image
kidtreo answered

this is the only way Amazon can stay visible so they are unlikely to change unfortunately until other assistance catch up and start offering it first

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