The crux of Amazon’s personal voice-assistant Alexa and the companion hardware the Amazon Echo is that she’s always there listening and ready to help but that doesn’t mean that you always want Alexa listening and at the ready.
Why Do I Want To Do This?
Why disable the microphone system on your Echo? Because everybody needs a little time alone? While we’re confident that someone who was genuinely worried about the privacy implications of the always-at-your-finger-tips Alexa voice-assistant system wouldn’t actually purchase an Echo in the first place, those of us who are less concerned about the matter and actually own Echo may still have reasons for wanting to disable the microphone now and then.
Whether you’re talking about some hush-hush secrets with your spouse or your kid’s piano tutor’s name is Alexa and you’re all collectively sick of Alexa-the-voice-assistant chiming in every time Alexa-the-tutor gets asked a question, it’s easy to temporarily disable the microphones.
It’s worth noting that if you have an Amazon Echo Remote the remote microphone (which is push-for-use and not always on) remains available even if the main unit has the microphone array disabled. This is particularly handy if you’ve disabled the microphones but still wish to use Alexa to add something to your shopping list, change the music, or what not, without fully turning on the array again.
Disabling Your Echo’s Microphone
Amazon must have predicted that the biggest element of consumer backlash against adopting the Echo was the specter of the Big Brother’esque always-on-microphone system. As such they made it ridiculously easy to disable the microphones if you so desire. How easy? There’s a large microphone mute button located directly atop the device.
Tap the microphone button and the indicator ring and both glow intensely red to indicate that the device is no longer operational and will not accept voice commands until the microphone is enabled again. Curious if the state persists through power outages? We were too; it turns out that the Echo recalls the microphone state and after the boot sequence where the indicator ring flashes blue and Alexa says “Hello!”, it returns immediately to the disabled state.
The Missing Feature: Voice-Driven Disabling
One feature we found missing, and surprisingly so given that the whole appeal of the Echo is voice control, is the inability to turn off the microphone via voice command. If you issue a command to Alexa like “Alexa, turn off the microphone” she’ll cheerily announce that there are no connected home devices that fit that description and give you instructions on how to set up the connected home features of the Alexa/Echo system.
Although we realize that issuing a voice command to turn off the microphones is a one-way street (after all Alexa won’t be listening to turn them back on) it’s still a feature we’d like to see in future updates.
Have a pressing question about your Amazon Echo? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to help.