Amazon’s Echo devices are generally very good at picking out their wake word. This is because, while it’s the device itself that locally identifies that the word has been said, Amazon still verifies after the fact that the wake word was said using their much more powerful cloud servers. Now that same cloud-based wake word verification feature is being made available to 3rd-party Alexa devices. This means non-Amazon made devices with far-field always-listening Alexa capabilities will become as good as Amazon’s own devices at picking out the wake word.
The use of cloud-based wake word verification will not slow down responsiveness because the device itself is still locally listening for the wake word and hearing your request. The difference is, when that request is sent up to Amazon’s servers, the server will double-check that the device actually heard the wake word. If the server determines the wake word was not said, it’ll prevent the device from responding to the request it thought it was receiving.
The first 3rd-party device to use the new wake word verification service is the Ecobee4 smart thermostat. That device is essentially an Echo Dot on your wall, and with the cloud-based wake word verification service, it’ll be a lot better at differentiating the wake word from other similar sounding words.