Three Claps for Alexagate

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This week I’m testing out the Alexagate from MSCHF.

The device sits atop your Echo device and uses 7 ultrasonic speakers to jam your Echo’s mic so it can’t hear you say “Alexa…” or ANYTHING ELSE.

Why not just unplug your Echo if you’re worried about Amazon eavesdropping?

Don’t ask stupid questions.

You can turn the jamming on/off by clapping three times. The ultrasound device is beyond the range of adult human hearing, but I was a little worried about my dogs. Luckily, they don’t seem to mind.

The device isn’t really a mainstream utility, of course. Instead, it helps provoke a conversation about surveillance and sousvelliance (the recording of oneself, on purpose). And education. And privacy. And trust.

There’s a reason that Facebook Portals come with a plastic clip to block the camera lens and new Echo Shows have a physical camera lens blocker on a sliding switch.

Alexagate already prompted a number of conversations about the topic in my home: Who is listening? Where is that data stored? How can we access it? Have we said anything we shouldn’t or wouldn’t if it was made public? Even if we have software-side control of our data, do we trust the hardware? And the companies behind it?

Of course, this tension is exacerbated by the Echos in my other rooms that are still listening and being triggered by “Alexa” even when this one is jammed. And my Echo Auto. And my Alexa Echo Loop smart ring. And my new Alexa Frames glasses (review coming soon). It’s a thing at the Swan house.

Buy an Alexagate for your home here.

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Social Pulse, Week of 5-13

RIP Grumpy Cat!

This week Instagram created a special ecommerce account called @shop that curates posts from online merchants that sell products through Insta. Every product on the @shop account has shopping tags that lets users make a direct purchase without leaving the app. Open the app on your phone, follow @shop, and check it out!

A year ago Facebook announced they would be rolling out a “Clear History” tool that lets people see and manage their off-Facebook activity, including anonymizing their browsing history on the Facebook tracking pixel. This week Facebook shared more information about the tool and indicated it will be rolling out in the coming months. MarketingLand has a good breakdown of what we expect will happen.

A.I. copywriting is far from perfect, but it’s getting better. Check out this web app that lets anyone enter a text prompt and then watch in real time as the A.I software writes a few paragraphs on your topic at:

This week Amazon announced Alexa Guard, that uses your existing Echo devices to function  like a security system – including sending you alerts for smoke detectors or glass breaking. Start by setting up Guard in the Alexa app. Then say, “Alexa, I’m leaving” to set Guard to Away mode.

In a glimpse into the growing amount of screen time we’ll have when our cars drive themselves, the Wall Street Journal wrote this piece on the technology coming to our nation’s farmers – and what they’re doing with their downtime while their combines drive themselves. Key quote: “Long days of planting are also good for binge-watching ‘The Office’ from comfy tractor cabs.”


It can be tempting to hate on digital and technology all the time – given all the news about privacy, data leaks, and negative social media behavior. But Wired magazine asked tech experts how “tech makes us better humans,” and the answers are fairly inspiring.


In patent news this week, Sony is working on technology that would allow you to use your iPhone as a Playstation controller, potentially unlocking AR capabilities (and allowing your kids’ friends to all have their own controller when they come over to play). And Amazon has a new patent that could directly alert police if someone steals a package on your doorstep using facial recognition.

Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” Would you pay .99 cents for an app that reminds you multiple times a day that you will die? If you answered yes, here you go.