Alexa’s oddball ‘Away Mode’ skill aims to keep burglars at bay

What do you do to keep your home safe when you go out? A large growling dog is the go-to house protector for many, but not everyone has the space, time, or money to care for such a creature.

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to turn on the TV when you leave to make it sound to passers-by like someone’s in. A new Alexa skill called Away Mode draws on the same theme, making it sound like a real conversation is taking place inside your home. Created by San Francisco-based home insurance company Hippo, the skill lets owners of Amazon’s Echo speaker and other Alexa-enabled devices play different conversations through their devices.

Hippo describes the dialogues as “lengthy and awkward audio tracks to ward off unwanted visitors from your home.”

Seven different ones are currently available, each lasting between 47 and 72 minutes, which makes Away Mode suitable for quick errands rather than long trips. The topics are wide and varied, and include a “book club meeting where everything but the book is discussed,” a “passionate argument over the rules of a complicated board game,” and one in which “two average guys brainstorm what’s unique about themselves so they can start a podcast about it.” Oh, and there’s also an “emergency PTA meeting to discuss memes, fidget spinners, and other teen fads.”

If the conversation topics sound a little offbeat, it’s because they were created by writers from the likes of Saturday Night Live and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

When you enable the skill, Alexa says: “In five seconds, I will start playing a random extended audio track that will make it sound like someone insufferable is home.”

The company told USA Today that Away Mode should be regarded more as a bit of fun than a serious effort to improve home security, though it’s hoped it will prompt people to review their home security setup.

If you don’t have an Alexa-enabled speaker but want to learn more about how smart gadgets can help boost home security, Digital Trends has some helpful suggestions to get you started.

But if you do have such a speaker and want some more ideas on what you can do with it, then take a moment to check out our list of 16 Alexa skills that will help you get more out of your device.

Smart Home

Amazon has an even dozen new smart devices. Here’s how to order

Amazon's hardware announcement meant a whole bunch of new Amazon Alexa gadgets. From a microwave to stereo equipment, here is the complete list of devices that were announced, as well as reviews for some.
Home Theater

How to buy speakers: A beginner’s guide to home audio

From the difference between bookshelf speakers and monitors to the proper way to audition, our ultimate speaker buying guide has all the information you need to create your own home audio nirvana.
Smart Home

Second-gen vs. third-gen Echo Dot: What’s the difference?

Amazon's third-generation Echo Dot was just released. Is it worth upgrading your second-generation Echo Dot? Here, we take a closer look at the two devices to see how much Amazon has improved its flagship Alexa voice assistant smart…
Home Theater

HDMI 2.0b is a whole lot more than just a connection to your TV

HDMI 2.0b is the backbone for many of the latest updates in 4K UHD technology. And while a new cable standard can often involve a bunch of changes for consumers, that is not the case this time around.

Save energy and money with a $45 discount on the Nest smart thermostat

If you were looking for a smart thermostat, Amazon is offering up to $45 in savings on the popular Nest Learning Thermostat. Use stainless steel thermostat to the keep your home warm and cozy this fall and save energy by scheduling the…
Emerging Tech

Keep your holiday gift list high tech and under budget with these gadgets

Modern technology doesn't always come cheap, but there plenty of premium devices that don't carry a premium price. Whether you're looking for a streaming device or a means of capturing photos from above, our list of the best tech under $50…
Product Review

Philip Hue’s versatile outdoor light strip makes drab yards, holiday decor dazzle

Philips Hue fans can at last enjoy the brilliance of this weatherproof light strip, which offers simple, versatile positioning, a rich selection of 16 million color options, and bright, vibrant illumination.
Smart Home

Softly spoken interactions with Alexa now possible with new Whisper Mode

Amazon's Whisper Mode for Alexa has gone live, so now you can talk more softly to Alexa and it'll respond in kind. The feature will most likely come in handy around napping babies or for bed partners you don't want to wake.
Smart Home

Add some nature to your tech with Mui, a wood panel that’s also a smart display

Are you so immersed in technology that you long for a touch of nature in your home? You could get some potted plants -- or you could invest in Mui, a wood panel that is also an internet-connected smart display.
Smart Home

One in 10 smart home device owners report unresolved technical problems

According to a recent survey from Parks Associates, more than one in 10 consumers report they have experienced technical errors with their connected devices that have yet to be resolved.
Smart Home

New Nuimo Click gives one-touch control over smart home devices

Berlin-based technology company Senic has announced the Nuimo Click, a smart switch that harvests kinetic energy to power itself without the need for cables or batteries. The Nuimo Click will begin shipping in December.
Smart Home

SiriusXM, Amazon team up for two Echo Dot deals with freebies

Amazon and SiriusXM partnered on two joint promotions. New SiriusXM subscribers can receive a free Amazon Echo Dot. People who already own an Echo device can sign up for new SiriusXM subscription with the first three months free.
Emerging Tech

A Fitbit for your cat shit: Automatic litter box tracks your kitty’s health

It may look like a sci-fi teleportation chamber, but Footloose is a high-tech litter box that promises to be the most cutting-edge way for your kitty to take a dump. Here's how it works.
Smart Home

Angee’s security service switches from sales to subscriptions

Angee, a successful startup that raised nearly half a million dollars for its home security hub, has pivoted its business model to offer its home security platform as a subscription rather than a smart home product.