One of the more interesting pieces of modern technology is Amazon’s Echo devices which feature a Siri-like intelligent personal assistant called Alexa. Buy an Amazon Echo device, connect it to your Wi-Fi, attach it to your Amazon account, and ask a few questions. It’s like having Siri in the living room, always on, always listening, always phoning home to an artificial intelligence machine that learns.
Echo and Alexa are considered big hits because Amazon has sold a few million (similarly, Apple Watch, priced far higher, is considered a dud though it sells and sold far more than Amazon Echo devices; go figure), but the device is there for a single reason. To get you to buy more from Amazon. Now there’s word that Alexa might get some eyes. Think Echo camera. What could go wrong?
Open The Pod Bay Doors, HAL
Remember that very creepy moment in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when the HAL9000 computer refused to open the pod bay doors so Dave could get back inside? HAL could think. And HAL could see. You know; like Alexa and Siri. But without the camera.
Word on the streets is that Amazon is working on a home security camera and why not? I mean, all Alexa does now is listen to your commands (while listening to anything else you say; Amazon captures and stores those commands, right?). Why shouldn’t Alexa be allowed to watch you, HAL9000 style?
Chris Welch found an image online of what could be an Amazon Echo camera and supplies an insightful analysis– except for that part where misdirection says it’s a home security camera when it probably is a home spying system for Amazon.
Think about it. The camera has an infrared system for motion detection, multiple microphones so it can listen to sounds within a room, and internet access– ostensibly so it can capture images of intruders and send you alerts– which could be used to store snapshots of the living room or family room, analyze the photos which would help determine what products Amazon could push your way.
Is an always on home security camera an extra layer of security and privacy? Or, is it a device that can be used to spy on your and analyze your belongings?
Apple’s Siri sits on about one billion iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Watches in the world, so I would say Siri has something of a head start in market penetration. But except for iPhones, Siri just sits there waiting for a trigger to listen to a command, while Alexa is on all the time, always listening. Yet, to a certain extent, Siri has eyes because most Macs, iPhones, and iPads have iSight cameras built-in. So far, Siri’s eyes remain closed, or Siri is blind by design.
What if Siri could see you and interact with you based upon what it sees?
Jack, I see you appear perturbed. Did Carol upset you again? Or, was it that nasty new boss? What can I do to help? Do you need some retail therapy? Let me show you Apple’s new AirPods.
What Apple does not have yet is much of a presence in the living room despite an Apple TV, and those one billion or so iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Apple is a hardware company so I do not doubt there’s a Siri-inspired Apple Home Camera in the R&D works somewhere in Cupertino or China or wherever the company’s new ideas grow. I grow increasingly concerned about devices that are always on, always listening, and always watching. In Amazon’s case, it’s obvious they’re designed to sell you products, but can be hijacked for other purposes by internet hackers and thieves.
If Apple’s Siri had eyes and showed up in the Siri home security camera, would the situation be any different?