Have you seen one of these little pucks before?
The Echo Dot is a smart home device created by Amazon that is always listening and can be activated by saying Alexa, Amazon, or Echo. You know Google Smart Home or how you can go "okay Google" into your phone? Yeah, that's what this is. It is also coincidentally hard (non-existent) to find in Canada. When I headed down to the United States for vacation, I also snagged myself one of these cute devices for US$50. While it has the capability of performing a lot of actions already (such as controlling my Spotify, Phillips Hue, and checking my calendar, Amazon keeps coming out with new features every day.
The main reason that I picked up one of these is that Amazon allows developers to program their own commands into it. Eventually, I aim to create an extension that allows for the Echo Dot to make API calls to my Raspberry Pi (which if you have not been following recently) so that my DIY home automation system can be controlled by voice. In fact, I have been spending the past few months squashing bugs in the code as well as refactoring the server code so that I can create a cleaner and a more well-documented API.
One of the scary things that I noticed the Echo dot doing is saving the voice clips. I can open my app and it will not only show me my last command but also let me listen to it. This prompts me to talk about the next topic on my mind - how smart can a smart device be until they change from helpful to intrusive? Take your phone for example. Several phones have the ability to respond to "okay Google" or "hey Galaxy" while the device is sleeping. Knowing this, users may find it convenient to have a voice assistant that they do not have to wake their phone up to activate. What if I told you that Google tracks your location and you can even view where you have been and what you have done a few years ago? Are you creeped out now? That is just only the tip of what we pay for convenience (and free!). That's fine and all, if you don't want your phone to listen to you, just put it far away or don't take it with you. The Echo, on the other hand, has 7 mics that can hear me talk quietly from another room. That's some powerful stuff. What if I was having some "fun" in another room and ... say I yell Alexa really loud (obviously not the assistant Alexa) and I forget to mute the device? I certainly don't need that being sent over the internet.
A quote to leave you with is this
"I'm doing a free operating system just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu for 386 (486) AT clones."
Opening up software not only gets rid of fears, but it also creates an ecosystem that will thrive through contributions by everybody.