In Amazon’s Super Bowl ad, Alexa loses her voice, but that wasn’t the only thing that was missing from the funny spot. The retailer said that their Echoes and other Alexa-enabled devices wouldn’t be triggered by the ad.
In the 90 second ad, some famous faces and their voices step in for the virtual assistant. Stars Gordon Ramsay, Cardi B, Rebel Wilson, and Anthony Hopkins give hilarious and questionable responses to Alexa requests. Though despite the fact that people say “Alexa” at least ten times during the ad, your Echo shouldn’t have turned on.
Amazon confirmed that they’ve acoustically fingerprinted the ad, and taught Alexa not to respond to the spot.
“The trick is to suppress the unintentional waking of a device while not incorrectly rejecting the millions of people engaging with Alexa every day,” Shiv Vitaladevuni, a senior manager on the Alexa Machine Learning team in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a corporate blog post. Fortune describes two particular patents if you’re wondering about all the technical details.
The team has also figured out how to suppress unplanned triggers, like if a late night host tells an Alexa joke.
When multiple devices start waking up simultaneously from a broadcast event, similar audio is streaming to Alexa’s cloud services. An algorithm within Amazon’s cloud detects matching audio from distinct devices and prevents additional devices from responding. The dynamic fingerprinting isn’t perfect, but as many as 80 to 90 percent of devices won’t respond to these broadcasts thanks to the dynamic creation of the fingerprints.
Last year, an ad unintentionally set off a bunch of Google Home devices. The Verge’s Kwame Opam writes:
“But then my Google Home perked up, confused. “Sorry,” it said. “Something went wrong.” I laughed, because that wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t the only one.
While turning devices on by accident can be amusing, Amazon’s ad this year was pretty funny on its own.