Project Alias is an open-source, ‘teachable’ parasite that gives users increased control over their smart home assistants in terms of customization and privacy. It also trains the smart home devices to accept custom wake-up names while disturbing their built-in microphone, by simply downloading an app. Once trained, Alias can take control over your home assistant by activating it for you.
Tellart designer Bjørn Karmann and Topp designer Tore Knudsen are the brilliant minds behind this experimental project. Knudsen says, “This [fungus] is a vital part of the rain forest, since whenever a species gets too dominant or powerful it has higher chances of getting infected, thus keeping the diversity in balance” He further added, “We wanted to take that as an analogy and show how DIY and open source can be used to create ‘viruses’ for big tech companies.”
The hardware part of Project Alias is a plug-powered microphone/speaker unit that sits on top of a user’s smart speaker of choice. It’s powered by a pretty typical Raspberry Pi chipset.
Input and output logic of Alias
Both Amazon and Google have a poor track record of storing past conversations in the cloud. However, Project Alias promises of privacy. According to FastCompany the smart home assistants “aren’t meant to listen in to your private conversations, but by nature, the devices must always be listening to a little to be listening at just the right time–and they can always mishear any word as a wake word.”
Knudsen says, “If somebody would be ready to invest, we would be ready for collaboration. But initially, we made this project with a goal to encourage people to take action and show how things could be different . . . [to] ask what kind of ‘smart’ we actually want in the future.”
Here’s a short video on the working of Project Alias