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Amazon’s voice-controlled Alexa products are technically always on, though not always listening.
Researchers from Northeastern University and Imperial College London have studied for months to learn more about what triggers them, and whether or not they are “listening” all the time. The ongoing study found “no evidence to support” the theory they are listening to us all the time.
For one of our favorite AI friends to reply to us, Alexa awaits a “wake word” that triggers her response to your voice command. That can be great when you need her, but sometimes not so ideal when you’re watching TV, streaming Netflix, or, you know, just happen to have a roommate named Alexa.
Specific Netflix shows known to trigger Alexa
Some current examples of Netflix conflicts include:
Alexa & Katie
Saved By the Bell’s Tiffani Thiessen stars in this 2018 show, in which Alexa is battling cancer, and, with her best friend Katie by her side, also starting high school. As you can imagine, any time the lead character is named aloud, Amazon devices tend to activate.
Vanessa Van Helsing is this show’s titular protagonist, and acts a mainstay for seasons one through four in this dark, vampire-ravaged world, originally on SyFy. Every time her name is said aloud, you may notice your Amazon device “waking up.”
In fact, you also have to watch out for other sneaky soundalikes, like “Vanessa,” which can be heard in the dialogue of many popular Netflix shows. Some viewers have even reported soundalikes, such as “a wet sock” triggering Alexa, too.
A blind lawyer by day, vigilante by night, Matt Murdock fights crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil. One of the main characters’ names is Vanessa, which can often trigger Alexa by mistake.
Netflix offers three seasons of Penny Dreadful, a dark horror series featuring Josh Hartnett, Eva Green and Timothy Dalton weaving together the classic tales of Dracula, Frankenstein and Dorian Gray, set on the dark streets of Victorian London. Vanessa Ives is the main protagonist of the story, which, as we know from Van Helsing and Daredevil, can mistakenly trigger Alexa.
So, how can you avoid this?
Turn off your microphone
At the most basic level, the best way to make sure commercials or shows don’t kick-start your device is by turning off the switch at the back of the assistant when you plan to watch TV.
The downside is that you’ll have to do this manually each time you watch a show with the name Alexa or even Vanessa, or some commercials, and then you have to remember to turn it back on.
Change your wake word
A second approach is to change your wake word. Amazon devices offer several options other than “Alexa,” including “Echo,” “Amazon” and “Computer.” If you think any of these will trigger Alexa less than her own name, give it a go. Here’s how:
- Open the Amazon Alexa app on your phone.
- Tap the More icon (three horizontal lines) in the upper-left corner.
- Choose Settings.
- Select the device whose wake word you’d like to change.
- Select the Wake Word setting.
- Choose a new wake word from the menu.
Hopefully, with these quick fixes, you’ll be able to make it through a show in full without any Alexa interruptions.