Alexa’s wake word can now be changed by voice on Amazon Echo devices

Amazon’s line of Echo devices can be set to respond to one of four wake words which include Alexa, Echo, Amazon, and Computer. You used to have to dive into the device settings in the Alexa app to change the wake word but now you can do it on the fly with your voice. Just say “Alexa, change the wake word” and Alexa will ask which of the three alternative wake words you would like to use. Speak your choice and you’re all set. I can see this coming in handy to quickly change the wake word temporarily when watching a movie or TV show that keeps triggering Alexa.

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23 comments
  1. Charlie says:

    I’m waiting for the needed personalized wake word that will stop all the Alexa triggering. I can’t believe this isn’t already an option.

    • HeffeD says:

      I agree… I tend to have to mute my Echo when I watch TV because I’m getting tired of false positives.

      It’s not like the technology is brand new or anything. Motorola Moto X phones have had custom wake words for 5 years now! My Moto X has never woken up unintentionally.

    • Never likely to happen. The engineering around wake words is much more complex and exacting than people seem to realize. I’m an Alexa developer and I wrote a whole post about it. Not sure I’m allowed to share a link here but if you Google “Echo Custom Wake Words, Why Isn’t This A Thing Yet” it’s the first search result.

      • AR says:

        that is pure BS

        and BTW it already did happen, un-officially , but Amazon stepped in and pulled the plug

        • AR says:

          oh yeah i just don’t understand what kind of bug Amazon has up its ass over custom phrasing, no custom wake words
          and no custom responses
          they added a section to the routines section of the alexa app for alexa replies but you can only pick from pre selected phrases
          why go through all this it makes no sense, just put in a damn text box where you can just enter what you want instead of making lists of phrases, next you will tell me that it is too technical for the AI to be able to read what you type

      • tech3475 says:

        At a minimum, there are possible methods though depending on circumstances, for example, ‘voice templates’ (i.e. having the user input a custom word).

      • AFTVnews says:

        You’re absolutely welcome to share links, especially to your own work, as long as it’s relevant to the discussion :-)

        Here’s the article for those interested: https://lovemyecho.com/2015/11/11/echo-custom-wake-words-why-isnt-this-a-thing-yet/

      • Charlie says:

        Not what I wanted to hear, but thank you for posting in our humble comments section.

      • Hn333 says:

        Great read. Thank you.

      • HeffeD says:

        Interesting write up, and yes, I’m sure it’s not the easiest thing to do. Initially, I actually thought about “Alexa” and realized it was a pretty good choice on Amazon’s part, but as time goes by, I’m surprised by just how many random blobs of speech sound like Alexa.

        It’s definitely doable though. As I said, Motorola engineers figured this out 5 years ago.

      • Reflex says:

        It is a good article however one other point to add is how this impacts privacy. The Echo listens for its wake word locally, which means all the code and processing for it must be pre-programmed, no reaching out to the cloud for help. This is an intentional design decision so that the device is not sharing conversations with a cloud engine if its not being engaged.

        The only way to permit any wake word would be to handle all wake words via the cloud rather than locally. That would be a huge privacy problem as virtually all noises aside from what they could explicitly filter against would have to be sent to the cloud, both creating a privacy nightmare and a network traffic one (on Amazon’s end). The use of explicit wake words is part of what permits them to have solved the problem more elegantly than Google, Apple or Microsoft, each of which require a two word combination to wake up their assistants. All without sending excessive data to the cloud.

        Yes more refinement is needed and I’m sure they are aggressively working to reduce false positives. But I find Alexa far more intuitive to use than Cortana, which I’ve had for much longer in my home.

    • Bear says:

      Personalized wake words (except on the Raspberry Pi version, but which doesn’t support many features, like music), will not happen on the current hardware because the hardware is the limiting factor.

      Amazon uses a chip with a very limited capacity to have the devices wait to hear a wake word. This is done in hardware, as sending all audio to the cloud would be impractical.

      In future devices, custom wake words may be possible (But who know? I don’t work for Amazon), but I wanted you to understand that there are specific hardware-related reasons for that not being possible right now.

    • ralph says:

      Seriously what if your girlfriend is named alexa. Also the alternatives are not much better… i’m supposed to say computer? The best alternative seems to be “echo” which also kind of sucks.

      • cheryl jones says:

        Computer came about because of Star Trek. The Crew of Star Trek would say “computer….” Remember star trek was in the 60’s so it predated both the mouse and alexa. A lot of people did want the wake word computer.

      • John says:

        Hmm.. Since i bought the echo Alexa is my girlfriend :-)

  2. AR says:

    got excited for custom wake words for a second , theni read the rest of the post =(

  3. George says:

    Amazon needs to replace every single one of their engineers,they have the technology for their FireTv devices in the Stone Age…other devices on the market have figured it out as to what consumer want and need in this brave new world of technicle advances

  4. Andy Hayes says:

    Amazon can do a slight modification of the word “Alexa” in commercials. It is so easy. It will still sound like the word Alexa but slightly changed so that it will not trigger the Echo. Amazon has to be doing this on purpose. I am a voice recognition Tech. I have written many programs using voice recog. It is part of their marketing campaign. They are not stupid. It’s all about the money.

  5. Jason says:

    Here’s the thing: deride Apple and Google all you want for the two-word combos. 100% of my complaints about the Echo’s wake words would go away if I could add ‘Hey’ to the beginning of the other choices. ‘Hey computer, blah blah…’ would not only make SENSE while speaking, it would do away with about 90% of my false positives. ‘Hey echo’ isn’t even more syllables.

  6. cenniel washington says:

    A fix to a custom wake word could be as simple as adding numbers to them…for example…Alexa1, Alexa2, Echo1, Echo2 and so on. This would eliminate the hassle of communiocating with multiple Echos in our homes.

  7. Mat says:

    So everything is done locally for the wake word? I’m sorry but most of this is utter rubbish. What’s stopping a wake word being defined by the end users/s. If it’s done local then the chip can be configured to take a recording and pattern match. Not only would this increase the overall security of the device, it would personalise the experience and allow for granular security. So you switch you echo on for the first time. It takes recording of whatever you say and applies lose pattern macth to the local account for your variation of voice, tired, drunk, ill etc. etc. If you have a family you can get them to use their own wake words and apply security such as my son cannot buy anything if that feature is activated and he wakes alexa

  8. Dennis Hall says:

    In my household we would prefer ‘Mother’ as a wake word, as in Alien’s Nostromo on board system, but it may be a while before we see that. I’m just happy not to have the two-word wake word.

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