The Amazon Echo wake word is the term that gets the voice assist device’s attention, similar to using a dog’s name before giving a command so Fido knows you are talking to them and will — hopefully — do what you ask. Echo devices work the same way. They constantly listen and record a rolling 60-second audio clip, replacing old content with new audio continuously, according to Amazon.
When the incoming audio includes the designated wake term, the device lights up with a blue circle and goes into listening mode. The default wake word is “Alexa,” but there have always been other choices.
Previously you could replace Alexa as the default wake word with “Amazon” or “Echo.” Now you can choose “Computer,” instead. On the surface none of the alternatives would seem to have much appeal: “Amazon” is a company, “Echo” is a device family name, and “Computer” is about as generic as you can get, other than maybe “Thing.” But there’s more to the latest wake word addition than first meets the eye.
First off, whatever wake word you use, not much really goes on in the Echo device or any of the suddenly prolific “Alexa-enabled” appliances, wearables, lights, and other objects. When you awaken the Echo device, other than a few useful local tasks like setting alarms or timers, it passes the query or request on to servers in the cloud, so you’re really talking to computers, and using the Echo device as a pass-thru.
The other cool aspect of “Computer” as a wake word is the Star Trek connection. Officers on the command deck and elsewhere in the Star Trek series and films regularly used a voice command interface with the wake word “Computer.” Now Trekkies everywhere can set their Echo, Tap, Dot, or other Alexa-enabled devices to respond to “Computer.”
To switch your Echo device wake word, open the Alexa app and select Settings from the navigation panel. Choose your device and then scroll down to select Wake Word. Pick the wake word you prefer from the drop-down menu, and click or tap Save. After you make the change the device light ring flashes orange one time.
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