You Don’t Have to Pause After Saying “Alexa”, “Hey Siri”, or “OK Google”

Raise your hand if you summon your smart speaker by saying its wake word and then waiting a second or two for it to light up. You might be surprised to know that you don’t have to wait for a response.

How Wake Word Detection Works

You probably know that your smart speaker is “always listening.” This is different than “always recording,” but privacy concerns aside, the hardware inside your smart speaker is constantly using local processing in order to listen for its wake word so that it’s ready at a moment’s notice.

In the case of the Amazon Echo, the microphones are working with the smart speaker’s processor at all times, and it’s listening to any sounds it hears. If it hears anything in the form of “uh-lecks-uh,” it knows to keep listening, and to start recording what you say after that. From there, the voice data gets analyzed and turned into an action.

Because your Echo constantly processes every sound it hears, it’s already listening for anything you say after it hears its wake word. CPUs are fast, so it doesn’t need an extra second or two for it to gain its composure before listening to your voice command.

But What About the Wake Lights?

Ah yes, the LED lights showing that your smart speaker is ready to listen for a voice command. Unfortunately, they’re sort of misleading.

Those lights on your Echo, Google Home, or HomePod that come on whenever you say the wake word are really nothing more than visual eye candy, and a bit of reassurance for the non-trusting. It takes a very brief moment for them to kick on after you shout the wake word, but you can actually begin saying your voice command before your smart speaker even lights up.

Long Story Short: No Need to Pause

The moral of story is that there’s no need say something like “Alexa…..turn the lights on.” Instead, you can just say “Alexa turn the lights on.”

Now, one situation where you might still want to pause is if you’re not in a direct line of sight or you’re in a location where you think your smart speaker may not hear you. In this case, you might want to enable your smart speaker to play a sound whenever you say the wake word so that you audibly know it heard you.

You will have to pause for a brief moment after saying the wake word while you listen for the chime, which has the same lag time as the LED lights. Of course, you don’t need to pause, but as I said, if you can’t see your smart speaker or aren’t sure if it can hear you, that audible chime lets you know for sure.

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.