Amazon arguably kicked off the “personal assistant in a can” line of products, so it’s almost fitting that it also be the first to implement one of the most needed feature for smart speakers. These devices can already recognize and understand voices and speech, but they can’t really differentiate one voice from the next, which makes for a sometimes hilarious, sometimes frightening situation. Amazon, however, is tipped to be working on a certain “Voice ID” feature that would put those worries to rest.
Both Amazon Echo and Google Home exhibit this problem. Neither of them can really tell their owner’s voice from other voices within earshot. That has lead to rather comical instances where Echo would try (and fortunately fail) to order toys for kids or Google Home responding to triggers in an advertisement for Google Home.
But the reality isn’t really that funny. It is a security nightmare waiting to happen. There has at least been one instance where an owner reported that a neighbor was able to shout at the Amazon Echo to unlock the door. On a more practical level, it also means that anyone in the family can tell Echo to do things, with or without permission.
According to insider sources who should not be named, Amazon has been working on this Voice ID feature since summer of 2015. It’s rather perplexing that what should be an integral feature has not been implemented from the get go. But judging by how long it’s taking, the difficulty in developing the feature would have delayed the Echo by years and Amazon would have lost the advantage it enjoys now.
However, it does need to roll out that feature and soon. Although it had a head start and some innate advantage in terms of shopping features, Google Home is catching up real fast and has the advantage of, well, Google. A Voice ID feature would widen the gap further. Fortunately, sources say the technology is all but ready and just needs to be integrated into Echo devices around the world. When Amazon plans on doing so, however, is still an open question.