If you are like us, you’ll read a bit more and smack your forehead. Amazon recently filed a patent. That isn’t really news, per se–they file lots of patents, including ones that cover clicking on a button to order something and taking pictures against white backgrounds (in a very specific way). However, this patent is not only a good idea, but one we were surprised didn’t arise out of the hacker community.
There can’t be an invention without a problem and the problem this one solves is a common one: While wearing noise cancelling headphones, you can’t hear things that you want to hear (like someone coming up behind you). The Amazon solution? Let the headphones monitor for programmable keywords and turn off noise cancellation in response to those words. We wonder if you could have a more sophisticated digital signal processor look for other cues like a car horn, a siren, or a scream.
We’ve talked about fixing commercial noise cancelling headphones before. If you don’t mind going low-tech, there’s always the easy way out, but those aren’t likely to accommodate speech recognition.
[menkveldj] built a service that encrypts files which self destruct in 24 hours. The download link can only be used once. If the wrong people were to get the link and download the file, they’d need many years on a pretty powerful computer to crack the 256AES encryption.
The sender shares a file that is encrypted client side using a password generated Pbkdf2 key to encrypt the data before uploading it to the s3 storage service. The sender is then provided the one-time-use link to share with the recipient. After the first download, or 24 hours, the link and the encrypted file are both deleted. The receiver must enter the same password to decrypt and recover the file. No one but the sharer and receiver know what the actual file is.
It’s still work in progress, so chime in with your comments and suggestions. To dig into the code, check out his repository on Github, which also has instructions to build and run it if you’d like to do your own version.
Oh, and you’ll like this. If want to thumb your nose at the powers that be, the site has a redirect for the whimsical domain: NSAfu.com.
For this post, I want to return the word hacking to its nefarious definition. We prefer the kinder definition of a hacker as someone who creates or modifies things to fit some purpose or to improve its function. But a hacker can also be someone who breaks into computer systems or steals phone service or breaks encryption.
There are some “hacker battlefields” that are very visible. Protecting credit card numbers from hackers is a good example. But there are some subtle ones that many people don’t notice. For example, the battle for online reviews. You know, like on Amazon when you rate the soldering iron you bought and leave a note about how it works. That might seem like a strange place for hacking until you stop and think about why people do bad hacking.
Continue reading “Hacking Online Reviews”
Let’s face it, automation doesn’t feel quite as futuristic unless you can just say what you want out loud and have the machines flawlessly obey. That is totally possible now — and on the cheap. Well, cheap as far as money goes. It can be an expensive learning curve to get it all working. This will help. [Lindo St. Angel] has put together a guide to navigate voice control of hardware using Amazon’s Alexa SDK.
We previously reported that Amazon’s AI had escaped its hardware prison in the form of the Alexa Skills Kit. Yes, calling it the Alexa SDK above is wrong it’s actually the ASK but nobody knows what that acronym is while most recognize the gist of an SDK. It gives you the hooks and the documentation necessary to leverage the functionality in your own applications. The core functionality of Alexa is voice recognition. Even so, it’s still a tall hill to climb.
[Lindo] has broken down the problem into a very manageable example. The Amazon Voice Service (part of ASK) is used for voice recognition and control. Amazon’s Lambda service connects the ASK to your piece of hardware; in this case he’s using a Raspberry Pi as the server. The final step is to connect your hardware to the Pi. [Lindo] is interfacing a keypad-based home automation system with the Pi but the sky’s the limit at this point.
With all the authentication and connectivity laid bare, this is a lot more approachable. The question is no longer can you connect everything to voice control. The question becomes should you give control of everything over to one single online service?
We’ve seen some interesting hacks of the Amazon Dash buttons, a neat device where you press a button and it orders a product from Amazon for you. Now, [Amazon] themselves are getting into the hacking fun with the AWS IoT Button. This is a Dash button that Amazon is giving out at events to promote their new Amazon Web Services (AWS) Internet of Things (IoT) service.
As part of their efforts to take over the world, the AWS IoT service allows you to create button-based services like ordering pizza or starting Netflix, but without running your own server. Instead, Amazon handles all of the hard stuff behind the scenes on their Lambda engine, which receives the small bit of JSON that the button sends and runs a Lambda function that orders pizza, kicks off Netflix, then starts World War III. Amazon provides sample actions for things like
launching the missiles sending a text message over Twilio and writing to a database. Amazon isn’t selling these buttons: they only seem to be available as swag at events. Make a loud enough noise in the comments section and maybe they’ll allocate some for the Hackaday community.
Continue reading “Amazon Giving Out (Sort Of) Hackable Amazon Dash Button”
It’s the 21st century, and we’re still a long way from the voice-controlled computers we were all promised in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. The state of voice interaction has improved, though, and Amazon’s release of the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is another sure step towards a future of computers that will pay attention to you. This allows any hardware to become Alexa, your personal voice assistant with the ability to do just about anything you command.
Up to this point, Alexa was locked away inside the Amazon Echo, the ‘smart’ cylinder that sits in your living room and does most of what you tell it to do. Since the Amazon Echo was released, we’ve seen the Echo and the Alexa SDK used for turning lights on and off, controlling a Nest thermostat, and other home automation tasks. It’s not Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Apple’s Siri that is behind all these builds; it’s Amazon’s Alexa that is bringing us into a world where Star Trek’s [Scotty] talking into an old Mac is seen as normal.
We hope this changes the home automation game in a couple of different ways. First, the ASK processes everything in the cloud so very low power devices are now ready for some seriously cool voice interaction. Second, Amazon’s move to open up what you can do with the software backend means a community developing for the hardware could eventually exert pressure on Amazon to do things like making the system more open and transparent.
Already working on some hacks with the Echo or ASK? Send in a tip to your write-up and tells us about it in the comments below.
You can add the Roku media player to the list of devices that can be bossed about by the Amazon Echo and its built-in AI: Alexa. [Julian Hartline] has figured out how to use Amazon’s voice-controlled Echo device with a Roku media player. He did this by using the Alexa Skills Kit, the SDK that provides a programmer’s interface into the functions of the device. That allows you to add functions to the Alexa and the AWS Lambda cloud service that processes the voice commands (Amazon calls this an Alexa Skill).
Rather than have the cloud service talk directly to the Roku, though, he decided to have a local node.js server act as an intermediary. The Alexa sends the voice command to the AWS Lambda service, which processes it, sends the command to the node.js service, which finally sends the command to the Roku. It works, but it seems a little slow to respond: see the video after the break. In the example shown, Alexa actually causes the Roku to launch Netflix and input a search string for the requested show. Pretty slick!
Continue reading “Amazon Echo Orders the Roku About”