Smart speakers are error prone, leak personally identifiable information, and line the pockets of bad actors like Facebook and Amazon. That said, if the worst person in your life still insists on owning one, the least you can do is buy them an Alexa-jamming device.
Say hello to Alexagate, a new ultrasonic speaker that fits neatly on top of most Alexa-enabled smart speakers. The idea is simple enough: while turned on and placed on top of your device, Alexagate uses “pulsed ultrasound to jam the Echo’s microphone.”
You clap three times to turn it on, and another three to turn it off.
“It is possible to shout through Alexagate’s blocking, but we could only do it from about six inches away, yelling until our throats were hoarse,” reads the product’s FAQ. “Believe us when we say that the blocking is good.”
The Alexagate is the latest in an ever-growing line of add-ons meant to protect you from the prying ears of your smart device. The best of which — a bracelet which emits ultrasonic noise to interfere with the microphones common on smart speakers — is meant to be taken with you, but is unfortunately not for sale. Notably, all these privacy-focused devices take as a given that smart speakers are recording users — even when not triggered by wake phrases like “Hey Google” — and represent a fundamental violation of users’ privacy.
It’s unclear, then, why the simpler, and more effective solution, is not offered for sale: that of a hammer.
True, barring those who rely on smart speakers for accessibility reasons, the out-of-touch people who actually own Echos and Google Homes may take more kindly to an Alexagate gift than you wandering around their home and smashing their invasive electronics.
But hey, a return to some moderate semblance of privacy has to start somewhere — a fact that MSCHF is clearly counting on.