Smart speakers are a double-edged sword of help and intrusion: They provide weather news and reports, listen to conversations, add items to your shopping list, and send recordings to random people. But while Amazon last year introduced privacy-focused voice commands for Alexa-enabled devices, some people want even more security.
Enter Alexagate, an ultrasonic accessory that sits on top of most Amazon speakers to prevent the unit from hearing you. Simply clap or tap the yellow hat three times to initiate a pulsed ultrasound that interferes with the Echo’s microphone. And because the frequency is beyond the range of human hearing, you won’t even know what’s going on.
“The Amazon Echo records everything you listen to at home, 24/7, and archives it to Amazon’s cloud storage,” according to the MSCHF “manifesto,” posted on the Alexagate product page. “You may not subscribe to the idea that Facebook always listens through your phone’s microphone, but ask yourself at least honestly: Do you think Eco’s ‘mute’ button really does anything?
The limited-edition Alexagate, presumably named for its access control capabilities, or as a reference to the Watergate bug scandal, is now on sale for $ 99 (with free shipping). Its white noise hat and mounting ring are compatible with first, second and third generation Echo Dot; Second generation Echo Plus; and first and third generation Echo devices. Or, as MSCHF put it: “Since who knows what generation is what, all the little Echo Dots and all the newer ones with rounded edges.”
Expressly no a physical silencer, the plug-in does not interfere with the speaker itself; owners can continue to interact with their Amazon device as long as Alexagate is turned off. And although it is possible to scream through the ultrasound system, it is not recommended. “We could only do it from about six inches away, screaming until our throats were hoarse,” said the MSCHF FAQ page. “Believe us when we say that blocking is good.”