One of the fundamental components of Amazon Echo and Google Home is the tiny, always-listening microphones housed inside the devices. It’s how your house robot is ever-ready to hear you say, “Alexa, please play that Ed Sheeran song I am ashamed to admit I really like,” and put on “Galway Girl” in response. The problem is that your house robot might overhear something you don’t necessarily want it to hear. (Amazon recently agreed to release Alexa data in a murder case in Arizona.) Daniel Eckler thinks he has a solution for that, a furry, soundproof “Hearmuff” to put over your device when you don’t want it listening.
“Voice surveillance was a big story in the media last week, between Amazon giving over the murder evidence and Samsung TVs being hacked into,” Eckler said. “I think people are genuinely concerned about it hearing you at all times. My girlfriend and I actually came up with the idea together in bed, after our Echo Dot audibly responded to us making no noise at all.” More of a stunt and less of an actual product, Eckler is currently taking preorders ($20 per muff) on the Hearmuff website. “It’s more of a commentary than a way to make money,” he said. “At this stage, I’m gauging interest in production with my email on the site.”
Gag or not, Eckler raises a decent point about how wary people should be around technology. Heck, even Mark Zuckerberg keeps his laptop camera covered with a piece of tape for added privacy. “Surveillance is a big issue, and it’s important that projects like this and others respond, so that we keep a reasonable degree of privacy,” Eckler said. “The range of human behavior changes dramatically if we think we are being watched.” Alternatively, save yourself the $20 and just power down your Echo if you’re that paranoid. And also maybe double check your microwave while you’re at it.