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Speak up, robot: Cops wants data from Amazon Echo device for murder case

Who’s watching me?

The Internet of Things, as our rapidly growing collection of connected devices is called, entered a new era of sorts recently when detectives in an Arkansas murder case sought a search warrant to view… or hear… the content of commands or sounds recorded by an Amazon Echo device. The case dates back to 2015 but the gist of the matter is that the home where the murder took place was littered with I-o-T devices that may hold clues.

Detectives say the Echo was streaming music at the time of the murder, and they want to know if the Echo recorded any sounds during what appears to be a struggle. Echo devices are “always listening,” but Amazon says they only record small bits of commands received after hearing a “wake word,” which by default for an Echo device is “Alexa,” the name of the A.I. agent used to execute requests. Detectives are also looking at other smart devices in the home.

The broader implication here is that this new generation of smart home assistants, whether it be an Echo, your phone, computer, security system, thermostat or whatever, may now be forced to rat you or someone else out in a legal matter. How the legal system and device makers will respond to this new wrinkle remains to be seen. So far, Amazon is refusing to release the data while its legal team looks at options; Suffice to say it’s a complicated new problem.

Kilts not included

The Tesla battery “gigafactory” is coming along nicely if a new drone video is any indication, and Elon Musk is going to need all those batteries real soon if his next car, the second-gen convertible Roadster sports model, will live up to the performance rumors now swirling around. How fast will it be? According to a Tesla press release, Elon has another gear beyond even the Model S’s Performance variant’s Ludicrous Speed: it’s called Maximum Plaid.

See if you can guess Elon Musk’s favorite movie. Uh huh. Anyway, with the Model S already edging in on hypercar acceleration speeds while in Ludicrous mode, the new Roadster convertible, which is likely a clean-sheet design, and not based on the Lotus platform of the original Roadster. It might be a while before we get the performance numbers, but we’d wager a sub-3-second 0-60 time is in the cards.

Carrie Fisher, 1956-2016

By now of course, you’ve heard that Carrie Fisher, who played the iconic Princess Leia in Star Wars, passed away yesterday at the age of 60 after falling ill on a transcontinental flight the week previous. For a year filled with celebrity deaths ranging from David Bowie to Muhammad Ali to Prince to Gene Wilder, Fisher’s death was yet another gut punch in a year full of gut punches, and we’ll miss her very much.

However, if there is any good news in the bad news, it’s that Fisher did complete filming her parts for the next entry in the Star Wars canon, known at this point just as “Episode VIII.” What that role consists of in the next movie isn’t public yet, but Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow now has a problem on his hands, presumably one that can be dealt with ahead of production as that movie is still in scripting stages.

However it turns out, it’s going to be tough seeing a Star Wars movie without our tough and charismatic Princess, who was one of the first of a new wave of female movie heroes who were about much more than just being a pretty face, although she was awfully good at that as well. Read more on Fisher’s career and accomplishments here. Rest in peace, Ms. Fisher.