back to article OK Google, Alexa, why can't I choose my own safe, er, wake word?

One of the oddest things about this week's Google hardware launch was to constantly hear the same phrase over and over again from everyone in the same room: "OK Google." Why? Because the ad giant has chosen that phrase to wake up its digital assistant, whether on the new Pixel phone or the new Google Home. OK Google. OK Google …

  1. Notas Badoff Silver badge

    Slartibartfast Hovercraft

    "At your service, sir!

    Yes, combining fixed wake phrases with with 'pre-primed' Google/Bing searches could result in some really interesting political debates: "Ok Google, Trump as president" announces in every home "His biggest bankruptcy yet!"

    Aside: Instead of just walking up and just saying "tea", did Jean-Luc always crisply specify "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" because just saying 'tea' would then prompt for "what's the second letter?", and asking for 'chamomile' would get him a cup with a green chameleon?

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      Re: Slartibartfast Hovercraft

      Aside: Instead of just walking up and just saying "tea", did Jean-Luc always crisply specify "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" because just saying 'tea' would then prompt for "what's the second letter?"

      Nicely put and that reminds me of sentences like "cup, drinking - for the use of".

      These assistants are bloody awful. Try asking for an alarm next Tues at 1300 or "where am I?" or "who am I?". You have to use canned phrases just to start the bloody things up and get their interest. Artificial Intelligence ..... nope .... artificial: yes, intelligence: get a grip. You can parse that sentence and get the meaning, I doubt that G n Co's finest effort could.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @gerdej

        "where am I?" or "who am I?".

        These are deep existential questions about are place in the universe and what personhood is all about.

        I would expect them to come back with a thesis (detailing the solar system in the galaxy, the Local Group of galaxies, the Virgo cluster, the Laniakea Supercluster and the Great Attractor) and a major philosophical work. They are probably labouring away at this very moment on that.

        Oh, so you just wanted to know the street address, sorry..

        1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

          Re: @gerdej

          "I would expect them to come back with a thesis (detailing the solar system in the galaxy, the Local Group of galaxies, the Virgo cluster, the Laniakea Supercluster and the Great Attractor) and a major philosophical work..."

          Nah.

          "42" is more concise.

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: Slartibartfast Hovercraft

      It does raise the question of how the Star Trek computers were able to figure out when you were talking to them and when you were just talking to other people, since people didn't use the trigger word "Computer!" all the time.

      I think the computer needs to be able to use other cues than just a trigger word. One thing that comes to mind is that when most people use their phones, they hold them in front of their chests, below their faces, to see the screen. So the phone's front-facing camera could match the face and eyes of the person to determine that they are looking at the phone, as well as using the phone's positioning sensor to determine that it's being held in a particular position, before responding to whatever the person is saying. These cues could be enough to be a trigger on their own, without the need for a trigger word - in much the same way that when Picard would say, "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot," it was likely the fact that he was standing in front of the replicator facing it, that set it off.

      And before Apple or anyone else go trying to patent this technique, I hereby posit this post as proof of prior art.

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        Re: Slartibartfast Hovercraft

        One thing that comes to mind is that when most people use their phones, they hold them in front of their chests, below their faces, to see the screen. So the phone's front-facing camera could match the face and eyes of the person to determine that they are looking at the phone, as well as using the phone's positioning sensor to determine that it's being held in a particular position, before responding to whatever the person is saying.

        What's wrong with a dedicated (hardware) button and push-to-talk? Would seem very natural (think walkie talkies) and without the background power drain of constantly listening out to everything? I can see accessibility issues along the lines that chap raised here the other day, but alternative arrangements can be made for those cases.

      2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

        Re: Slartibartfast Hovercraft

        It does raise the question of how the Star Trek computers were able to figure out when you were talking to them and when you were just talking to other people, since people didn't use the trigger word "Computer!" all the time.

        Um...the script, seeing as how the 'computer' consisted of Majel Barrett and a microphone.

      3. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Slartibartfast Hovercraft

        "I think the computer needs to be able to use other cues than just a trigger word."

        And you can't rely on alternative cues, either. What if it's fixed into a location, such as a car, and the potential speaker is speaking precisely because they're busy and can't unlock the device any other way than by spoken word? Something like, "OK Google, find nearest detour" while in the middle of negotiating a traffic jam in an unknown place could certainly be visualized.

      4. David Neil

        Re: Slartibartfast Hovercraft

        "It does raise the question of how the Star Trek computers were able to figure out when you were talking to them and when you were just talking to other people, since people didn't use the trigger word "Computer!" all the time."

        pretty sure they did in TNG

      5. TheProf

        Re: Slartibartfast Hovercraft

        'how the Star Trek computers were able to figure out when you were talking to them'

        How the hell did the computers decide that someone walking towards a door actually wanted to leave the room? It's almost like they have "defocused temporal perception" or something.

        If only there was a way to stop real world doors opening. I'm sure my local bank would love it if their door didn't open every time someone stood in the doorway just to check their phone.

    3. Cirdan
      Happy

      "Oh, computer"

      ... in my best, trilled Star Trek "Scotty" accent wakes my (Motorola Moto X 2014) Android device.

      Followed quickly by... "A keyboard. How quaint!"

      ... Cirdan...

    4. dajames Silver badge

      Re: Slartibartfast Hovercraft

      Aside: Instead of just walking up and just saying "tea", did Jean-Luc always crisply specify "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" because just saying 'tea' would then prompt for "what's the second letter?"

      That was for the audience, of course, to remind us that Jean-Luc was an Earl-Grey-drinking sorta guy, and it became a kind of leitmotiv for the character.

      I did always wonder whether there were times when things got rough-- in the episodes that never got shown -- that he'd ask instead for "Tea, Assm, strong and sweet with a shot of Cognac".

      The computer should have been able to work out which he'd wanted, of course, but it would then have delivered a cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

    5. illiad

      Re: Slartibartfast Hovercraft

      well, 24th century computers are MUCH smarter!!! :)

      and note even todays ' Nintendo Wii Console' knows where you are standing! :)

  2. gerdesj Silver badge

    Piss off Google

    "We have built so much around this phrase that it simply makes sense to use that,"

    ... and at that point you demonstrate that the I in AI is soooooo faaaaaar off. Google et al are fiddling with a bunch of heuristics and nothing more and claiming some form of intelligence. Bollocks.

    Today, Chrome decided that a page that I'd accessed many times needed translating from Danish to English. Really? It is a Zabbix (monitoring system) page which displays a graph of throughput for a PPoE internet connection. I can't speak a word of Dansk and I can't see anything on the page that looks vaguely Danish. However, I suspect that a rubbish heuristic involving a Brit on a Danish PC or vice versa is to blame.

    A real AI system would have some form of inner voice that questions its decisions and re-evaluates them and learns. It might make mistakes but it would learn from them and perhaps apologise when it buggers up.

    1. Derezed
      Megaphone

      Re: Piss off Google

      "A real AI system would have some form of inner voice that questions its decisions and re-evaluates them and learns. It might make mistakes but it would learn from them and perhaps apologise when it buggers up."

      The last thing we need is more mechanical apologies. I've heard enough of those on train platforms to last a lifetime.

  3. bleh_meh
    FAIL

    Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

    https://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/532gmg/my_neighbor_just_let_himself_into_my_locked_house/?st=itxjjrm8&sh=58ef5d9d

    I made the mistake of adding an August Home Smart Lock to my front door. It's an Apple HomeKit device so it requires a hub for Siri; either an AppleTV or iPad. I use an iPad Pro in the living room for this purpose. I was showing off my home automation setup to a neighbor a few days ago, he's cool techy guy like myself. Fast forward to this morning, I'm pulling out of my driveway and he runs up and asks to borrow some flour to fry wings for an office wing party/contest; dope. So I put the car in park and to go back inside and he's like "I'll let myself in." I'm stunned, like what the f*ck. Dude walks up to my front door and shouts, "HEY SIRI, UNLOCK THE FRONT DOOR." She unlocked the front door.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

      Ooops!

      Shouting it too, that's telling the whole neighbourhood! I hope he's got plenty of flour...

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

      This, right here, is why my home will never be secured by electronic means. I'll use a mechanically operated system of pins inside a cilinder, actuated by a precisely sized piece of metal I can conveniently carry in my pocket (ie, a key). Yes, you can pick any lock given sufficient time. My current door locks take a skilled picker about 15 to 20 minutes. In a month I'll have locks that have so far not been picked by the lockpicking community. And there is no "try a bit, go home and start off where you left at the next attempt". You do it ALL in one go, or you are not getting in.

      Call me old fashioned, but I trust the trusty old cilinder lock a lot more to secure my property and privacy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

        "Call me old fashioned, but I trust the trusty old cilinder lock a lot more to secure my property and privacy."

        And then you find the REAL thieves just resort to the ol' Size 12 boot. Even if you had a cellular alarm set up, they'll be long gone before anyone arrives since they cased the place, ID'd the good stuff, and trained themselves to grab and run inside of 60 seconds. And as for cameras, hello masks.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: "they cased the place [..] and trained themselves"

          I know Sean Connery has made some interesting films on that subject, but I think you're giving thieves waayy too much credit.

          Most likely scenario when they get in and trip the alarm is they run like hell away from the place and set their sights on a "softer" targer - one without an alarm system.

          Because thieves are not in it for the thrill, they just want easy money without hassle. It's a business, and you don't take uneccessary risks. Why bother with a well-protected house when there are so many that are so much easier to get into ?

        2. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

          Thats why I make sure my doors are just a little sturdier than next doors. So they'll choose to break their shins on a different door. (Good luck getting through the average front door in my neighbourhood with a kick alone. You'll need a "universal opener" at least.) Security is all relative. You'll never keep someone out who really wants to get into your particular location. The trick to stop all the rest is being just a little bit harder of a target than someone else.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

            If they cases the placed and noticed high-value targets, they'll take the risk if they know they can get in and out quickly. Unless they know a cop is within two doors of the place, they'll know because of physics it takes a few minutes for any police to respond which is why they practice grab-and-runs: 60 seconds at most.

            As for the doorframe, a very strong man side-kicking a front door with at least a size 12 boot can probably break a wooden door frame at the hasp (a good strong kick can hit with nearly half a ton of force; the MythBusters practically accomplished it just with shoulder-ramming). Few places use very strong metal in the door frames and most that do are business doors. Plus there's still the windows. Your only hope is if you're in a high-crime area that justifies burglar bars, in which case the whole neighborhood is probably like this; the quickie burglars will leave this to the organized rings that can not only employ winches to go for high-value targets but probably also have the resources to distract or bribe cops (given it's a high-crime area).

            1. imanidiot Silver badge

              Re: Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

              "As for the doorframe, a very strong man side-kicking a front door with at least a size 12 boot can probably break a wooden door frame at the hasp (a good strong kick can hit with nearly half a ton of force."

              A proper exterior door (both in domestic and bussiness settings) should NOT be easily kicked in with half a ton of force. There is a reason most police forces have specially designed "universal door openers" (ie. battering rams) for the purpose. And thats not just H&S. Kicking in a door COULD work, but its not usually the MO for standard burglary/theft. It makes a lot of racket and attracts attention of witnesses. 2 people walking into/out of a house with stuff under their arms might go unnoticed. People kicking in a door and running off attracts attention and makes people remember. Standard MO is thus to work quietly, at best using a crowbar, preferably drilling or breaking a lock to gain entry.

              And there comes my comment again, the only goal is to make it hard enough so they don't bother. Everything over that level is overkill.

              (Also, unless its traditional single pane glass, getting through windows is also quite a challenge. Modern double glazing is probably harder to break than you'd think. You're probably going to need more than 1 rock to get through)

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Being able to unlock your house from outside... already done

                "A proper exterior door (both in domestic and bussiness settings) should NOT be easily kicked in with half a ton of force."

                Can AND WILL. Trust me. I've seen the results first-hand. Pine (the average framing wood) just doesn't have that much sheer strength. That's precisely WHY most business doors are steel-framed and if necessary carry additional anti-jimmy measures.

                "There is a reason most police forces have specially designed "universal door openers" (ie. battering rams) for the purpose."

                It's so they don't break their legs, plus since they have handles on TWO sides, it also allows for two-manning if you need extra muscle. A burglar usually won't have that many resources plus will want a stealth angle at least for the initial approach.

                "It makes a lot of racket and attracts attention of witnesses."

                Unless it's the middle of the day, when everyone's at school or work. Most burglaries actually occur in broad daylight...because of this.

                "Standard MO is thus to work quietly, at best using a crowbar, preferably drilling or breaking a lock to gain entry."

                No, standard MO is to work quickly. If you can get in an out inside of 60 seconds, anyone who happens to be home at the time (again, they're likely at work or school) probably won't have enough time to make anything out, let alone notify the cops. No details means no way to track you means a clean getaway as long as you can conceal your loot (easy enough with something common but large like a van, SUV, or covered pickup).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trickery

    How does your phone listen for "OK Google" all the time without draining the battery in half a day? There's dedicated voice recognition chip doing sound analysis while the main CPU sleeps; essentially a Bloom filter. When it hears something that could be a command phrase, it wakes up the main CPU to take over. The main CPU then needs to get to work doing the rest of the speech recognition (or sending the speech to the 'cloud').

    The command phrase needs to have an easily visible pattern to a low power chip without excessive false positives waking up the CPU. The phrase might also need to work with some speech being lost during the handoff. It's all programmable but it won't necessarily work with a new phrase.

    (I'm not an expert but this is how it was explained to me)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trickery

      Wouldn't know. Can't be arsed with it

    2. David 164 Bronze badge

      Re: Trickery

      It depends on the phone. Some phones do come with a dedicated processor for voice activation. Snapdragon 800 series I believe.

    3. Alan_Peery

      Re: Trickery

      Your points are valid, but no longer required if a simple button press/long press is required before the voice recognition starts.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Trickery

        "Your points are valid, but no longer required if a simple button press/long press is required before the voice recognition starts."

        And if one's hands are busy or it's not in an easy to reach location?

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Trickery

          And if one's hands are busy or it's not in an easy to reach location?

          Ooooh, Matron!

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: And if one's hands are busy or it's not in an easy to reach location?

          Right. Because we can't live our lives any more if our digital assistants cannot assist us at all times.

          WALL-E is a documentary after all - and I'm not talking about plant life.

      2. D@v3

        Re: Push button

        Pretty much the only thing i use mine for is...

        "Hey, Siri, timer (x) minutes"

        while I'm in the kitchen, and my phone is elsewhere. If i have my hands free to push a button, I'm more likely to just use my hands to do what ever it is that needs doing.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Though Motorola, under Rick, now boss of Google hardware, allowed you to choose an alternative wake word to 'ok google', when Motorola phones were made by Google.

    So this is all false. They did it before, and now voice recognition is more advanced, they can easily do it again.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      re: now voice recognition is more advanced,

      Really? Or just more hyped and available?

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Though Motorola, under Rick, now boss of Google hardware, allowed you to choose an alternative wake word to 'ok google', when Motorola phones were made by Google."

      Not necessarily. For example, did it work when the phone was sleeping? Or any of the other circumstances we expect to work now rather than before?

  6. scrubber
    Big Brother

    Inside a smoky room...

    "Okay, we have access to their communications online, but these sneaky citizens can still communicate privately in their homes. Any ideas?"

    "What if we make our listening devices have some kind of utility and people will then willingly buy them and put them in their houses?"

    "I know smart phones had enough features to make people carry around our bugs, but what would we have to offer to get people to have this constantly on in their homes?"

    "How about we let them look up the weather and start and stop music, by talking to it?"

    And that's how the west was lost.

    1. David 164 Bronze badge

      Re: Inside a smoky room...

      Why don't they just mandate all phones have software that keep their microphones on 100% of the time and allow the illumina, i mean the NSA to monitor all their communications, most people never let phones leave their eyesight anyway.

  7. David 164 Bronze badge

    I may have missed heard but I think Google did say at one point that you choose a keyword,

  8. Andrew Jones 2

    The reason is VERY simple. The listening for the "OK Google" phrase is local, it is done on the device only, NOTHING is sent to Google until the device hears the built in phrase. The phrase was chosen to provide the least amount of false positives. If people can willy nilly change the phrase the amount of false positives will skyrocket and people will very quickly get frustrated with the tech. Speech recognition with cloud processing is amazingly accurate, speech recognition via a low power chip has not changed for years - especially when you think that it has to cope with accents too.

    In any case it's all a moot point, the thing that will kill this quicker than anything else will be the frustration when people realise it is completely inadequate for a family situation because of the lack of multi user support and families that try it and give up on it are very unlikely to give it a second try when Google do finally get some sort of multi user ability working on the thing.

    For that - I am sad, I believe Google are the company that will have the tech to bring the Star Trek computer to life and I'm starting to worry I'll be too old to care by the time they do. HURRY UP!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The reason is VERY simple. The listening for the "OK Google" phrase is local, it is done on the device only, NOTHING is sent to Google until the device hears the built in phrase. The phrase was chosen to provide the least amount of false positives. If people can willy nilly change the phrase the amount of false positives will skyrocket and people will very quickly get frustrated with the tech. Speech recognition with cloud processing is amazingly accurate, speech recognition via a low power chip has not changed for years - especially when you think that it has to cope with accents too."

      TomTom uses "Hello TomTom", locally processed too, and that occasionally gets tricked by things said on the radio. Quite annoying really because now I have the radio and the TomTom talking over each other and the TomTom won't understand "cancel" until the radio is switched off.

      Otherwise it's pretty good. It doesn't use the cloud at all for its voice recognition, it's all done locally. It has a limited vocabulary, but I can say addresses quite a few commands to it and that (mostly) works. Certain it's pretty good for a small device with no online assistance from Nuance or whoever. Moore's law means that one day it'll all be locally processed which will be useful.

      The only problem with "Hello TomTom" is that the name feels like it should be masculine. And then "Jane" (the default voice) calmly speaks back to you. Now I'm sure I'm not alone in finding Jane's voice alluring, but to discover that she’s a tomboy too, well that knocks one's concentration completely skew wiff.

      (anon in case missus is reading)

    2. frank ly Silver badge

      @Andrew Jones 2

      Would waveform recognition with a local processing be any good (after normalising amplitude and other factors)? That would cope with different accents and even with a large family if each family member gave it a few samples of their own personal keyphrase.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: @Andrew Jones 2

        Google does that right now with a training system which can key to your voice to make it harder to trigger a false positive. But what happens when you have more than one Google-enabled device within earshot, like a phone and a tablet?

        1. Andrew Jones 2

          Re: @Andrew Jones 2

          "But what happens when you have more than one Google-enabled device within earshot, like a phone and a tablet?" Well they claim that by the time the Google Home is on sale - their massive advancements in speech recognition on the back end will be able to determine which (signed in) device can hear you the clearest, and send a signal to the others to stop them responding. (That's other home devices as well as Android ones)

          However it is not clear if they will only enable this on your account if you buy a home device, or if they will roll this out to all accounts.

    3. Alan_Peery

      There are *many* other phrases that would be unique, and not trip false positives. I would go with "Nebuchadnezzar" myself.

      A large part of the "OK, Google" insistence is about branding, and brand reinforcement, not technology.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      I believe Google are the company that will have the tech to bring the

      Romulan or Cardassian computer, you mean, right? In the best case, the Ferengi one... in the worst, the Borg one.

  9. DrM
    Devil

    OK

    OK Google.

  10. Mikel

    A sordid affair

    The phrase was selected by a key staffer in a crucial position, and now it can't be changed. Even peeking at the history of it can be awkward.

  11. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Oh God, it's the Nutrimatic Drink Synthesizer in real life ...

    How about we put a Google Home and a Amazon Echo in every room of every funny farm in the country and just wait. Kickstarter, anyone?

  12. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    It's All Vanity

    I think it's because they realized that some of us might use phrases like "Oi, Bezos, you C**t".

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    asking people to recite the name of a company for a product

    yeah, that's REALLY weird...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    perfect wake up phrase

    with all tv stations hacked, a subvocalized message: "on my command, terminate all humans, terminate, terminate!"

  15. imanidiot Silver badge

    Not for me

    I can't stand voice command. It never works when you want it to (they all seem to have a problem with a dutch accent), and if it does it is never as fast and easy as claimed by the manufacturer. Better to just push a few buttons.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Not for me

      Even when your hands are busy?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Not for me

        I've yet to encounter a situation where I couldn't free up a hand for something like that.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Not for me

          How about driving while negotiating traffic, meaning you need both hands to steer properly?

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Not for me

            Why the *expletive* are you paying attention to ANYTHING other than driving in a situation like that? Pull the hell over and do it safely if it's that busy! If I need my phone for navigation its in a handily accesible cradle in the lower left corner (left hand drive car) of the winscreen. I can then reach it easily and handily with my left hand and operate it whenever I get around to it. If I don't need it for navigation during the drive it is stored out of the way and left there.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Not for me

              If you're in traffic there's no way to pull over because you're surrounded by other cars. And as for putting it on the windshield, traffic codes where I live forbid anything obstructing the windshield (including dangling air fresheners) apart from those built into the car (like the mirror), so that means the device must go under the dash. It can't block the speedometer because that's against the traffic code, too, so that basically puts it either in a console mount or on the passenger seat: both too tricky to reach when your eyes are on the road. BTW, it's right-hand traffic where I live, so my dominant hand is at the center, not at the window.

              Look, I'm speaking from experience on this. I can at least say "OK Google, find nearest detour" while my eyes are on the road, and it's something quick enough that I don't get hypnotized.

              1. illiad

                Re: Not for me ( traffic codes where I live forbid..)

                So what awful place do you live??? and if 'you are surrounded by cars' , they will soon slow to a crawl...

                either way, it sounds like you are too paranoid to do the above... grow up...

              2. imanidiot Silver badge

                Re: Not for me

                I'm also speaking from experience. Those are EXACTLY the kind of situations where voice recognition more often than not just doesn't work. Noisy environment and either lots of damping from being stuffed in your pocket or lots of shielding from being put away somewhere where it doesn't fly off into the depths of hell the first time you have to brake so the microphone doesn't pick you up clearly. The aggravation of voice commands not working is just too distracting while driving. So if you REALLY need to change settings and you REALLY can't have your phone at hand pull off at the next exit and pull over to consult the map/set a detour, then drive on.

                I'll stand by my comment.

                (Btw, are you saying you need your dominant hand to operate your phone?)

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: Not for me

                  FIRSTHAND experience? Because I've consistently gotten it to work. IN an accident situation where traffic basically stood still. With the windows up, the sound of other cars is muffled enough to make your voice still audible to a mounted tablet since the microphone is usually uncovered on one end.

                  BTW, the state in question is Virginia. Here's the relevant passage from the Code of Virginia (§ 46.2-1054):

                  "It shall be unlawful for any person to drive a motor vehicle on a highway in the Commonwealth with any object or objects, other than a rear view mirror, sun visor, or other equipment of the motor vehicle approved by the Superintendent, suspended from any part of the motor vehicle in such a manner as to obstruct the driver's clear view of the highway through the windshield, the front side windows, or the rear window, or to alter a passenger-carrying vehicle in such a manner as to obstruct the driver's view through the windshield."

                  I hear California has a similar code, and the cops can have pretty strict views on the definition of "clear view" based on what I've seen with traffic stops (they may not get you just for it, but if they pull you over for something else, they can nail you then). They generally want you to get things off the dash.

                  1. imanidiot Silver badge

                    Re: Not for me

                    Yes, first hand experience. Voice command just doesn't work consistently enough for me so I don't bother. (Plus the only nav app on Android that actually seems to support voice command is Google Maps, and I'd rather stick a rusty fork in my eyes than let it get me lost and on the wrong side of the city facing a one way street from the wrong end ever again. Not when there are better alternatives out there.)

                    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                      Re: Not for me

                      Then we'll just have to agree to disagree since our firsthand experiences are simply too divergent to find common ground. I find it always works for me, can't have the device in arm's reach, AND find Google Maps to be the ONLY accurate mapping program (because of recent construction, none of other maps including Here are keeping up).

  16. A K Stiles
    Mushroom

    Hi, I'm Talky Toaster!

    Would you like some toast? Perhaps a teacake? How about a crumpet? Or maybe a delicious Muffin?

  17. Chris Hexter

    Until I can use the phrase "soylent green is people" to wake it, I'm simply not interested in this nonsense

  18. Yugguy

    Voice, gesture recognition, no thanks

    It's all crap. Instead of gibbering "oh ay ooh ooh" like a chimp, then hoping it will understand your accent, it's far easier AND quicker to type it in.

    As for gesture control, read this for the best description ever of how pointless that is.

    http://sniffpetrol.com/2016/08/05/a-week-with-a-bmw-740ld

    "It also has something called ‘gesture control’ by which you can adjust certain functions simply by making prescribed hand movements with your arm in mid-air. The most obvious one is a twirling motion to turn the stereo volume up or down. It works, but only some of the time. Too often, it doesn’t and you find yourself frantically twirling your hand about like a shit wizard. In half the time you could have adjusted the volume using the dashboard knob and saved yourself looking like a dashboard knob. Gesture control is a £160 option. I wouldn’t bother. The rest of the interior is terrific and doesn’t need such gimmickry."

    Someone tell me why the buggering fuck I would want to twirl my hand in the air in a futile manner instead of reaching a further 2 inches and actually just turning the volume control?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Voice, gesture recognition, no thanks

      "Someone tell me why the buggering fuck I would want to twirl my hand in the air in a futile manner instead of reaching a further 2 inches and actually just turning the volume control?"

      Because those two inches could well put it out of reach when you can't move yourself (you're seated) or the device (it's fixed to its location)?

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Voice, gesture recognition, no thanks

        Sometimes there is a knob attached to the steering wheel.

      2. Yugguy

        Re: Voice, gesture recognition, no thanks

        Well I don't know about your car son but mine doesnt actually GLUE me into the seat.

        And I have steering wheel controls for all major functions and most minor ones.

    2. no-one in particular

      Re: Voice, gesture recognition, no thanks

      > Someone tell me why the buggering fuck I would want to twirl my hand in the air in a futile manner instead of reaching a further 2 inches and actually just turning the volume control?

      Or using the controls on a stick just below the steering wheel? Assuming BMW can do at least as well as my old rust-bucket Peugeot?

  19. Caff

    Campaign ads

    It is only a matter of time before US election ads will try using the phrase

    OK Google like <insert candidate> on facebook

  20. Dan 55 Silver badge

    If you wanted an ideal wake phrase, OK Google isn't it

    Google is not at all consistently pronounced across languages, and in many countries people don't naturally say OK.

    It's just branding.

    1. Squander Two

      Re: If you wanted an ideal wake phrase, OK Google isn't it

      In countries where people don't naturally say "OK," it's actually a better choice of phrase.

      Not many of them, though: it's the most common and universal word on the planet.

  21. MacroRodent Silver badge

    The obvious choice

    Prikazyvat, like in Larry Niven's "The Integral Trees". Uncommon enough.

  22. M7S
    Terminator

    Playing Chris Rea

    if it actually plays Hazel O'Connor's "Eighth Day", move slowly away from the devices. Any devices.

  23. kmac499

    Not for me..

    Until I can change the phrase I won't use one, at least on my phone I can use a button to put the phone into alert mode before I speak my question. So how about a remote button say on a watch, now that would make a smart watch useful.

    (BTW anyone remember 'BOX' in StarCops back in the late 80's)

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Not for me..

      "BTW anyone remember 'BOX' in StarCops back in the late 80's"

      That's the AI for me!

  24. dajames Silver badge

    I don't really care what the phrase is

    What I want is for the devices to recognize MY voice, and not to respond to anyone else's.

    "OK Google: rm -rf /"

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I don't really care what the phrase is

      You know you can arrange that?

      Google App > Settings > Voice > "Ok Google" detection > Train/Retrain voice model

  25. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Every time it happens, it is annoying. And there is nothing to stop it."

    Really? Did it just appear in your room by magic?

    YOU bought it and YOU decided to use it.

    There is something you and all the other people who mindlessly and slavishly must have the latest 'shiny' crap from Google/Microsoft/Amazon, whoever.

    Turn it off/unplug it. Disable it and if it won't let you do that then don't bloody well buy it in the first place.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Yes, it DID just appear in my house by magic...the magic of SOMEONE ELSE buying them without my knowledge or permission. Many of us don't live alone.

  27. J2005

    To protect you from yourself

    They won't let you do that because the average user is not always bright. She'd likely replace a "reserved" word with the launch word. Even if the system rejects it, it would be a needless effort for little or no value.

  28. zapgadget
    Megaphone

    Fun at conferences

    I gave the keynote at an IoT Hackathon earlier this year, and at one point was talking about unconventional attack vectors. Saying loudly into the mic "OK, Google, dial 0898..." was enough to get a lot of worried people reaching into their pockets to stop their phones from dialling.

    I was kind, and chose a non-existent number.

  29. jake Silver badge

    "We have built so much around this phrase that it simply makes sense to use that,"

    Yeah. So much marketing bullshit, I'll wager. It sure as hell ain't a technological issue.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Fun at conferences

      A proposed prank when Google Glass looked like it might become a "Thing":

      When seeing someone wearing a Glass speak clearly, "OK Google. Safe Search Off. Horse Porn."

      1. scrubber

        Re: Fun at conferences

        But "horse porn" IS my unlock phrase. And my homepage.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fun at conferences

      Not that it would've worked on my phone. I trained the voice recognition to respond specifically to my voice. Also, since I have an actual lockscreen and I told it NOT to unlock on my voice, it wouldn't work even without training (instead it'll respond, "Unlock your phone first").

  30. Squander Two
    Devil

    My preference.

    Apple's voice recognition back in the days of MacOS9 allowed you to pick your own phrase. I went with "Are you fucking listening to me?"

  31. BlartVersenwaldIII
    Terminator

    OK google, you got Shroedinger's cat in there or what?

    Yes/No

    Or What?

    Go Away

    Please Come Back Later

    Fuck You, Asshole

    Perfect B^I

  32. MrWibble

    The other problem is if more than one person in a venue hs a google phone, then "OK Google" will trigger all of them:

    https://twitter.com/MKBHD/status/783352036825759744?lang=en-gb

    Quote: "You can't hear live, but every time the guy on stage says "Ok Google" it triggers the phone of someone in the front row and it's hilarious"

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing?

    "Amazon's Echo gives you the option of selecting either the word "Amazon" or the default "Alexa" to turn the assistant on"

    " Every time it happens, it is annoying. And there is nothing to stop it."

    Unless you also have a friend named Amazon, you mentioned the quickest way to stop it at the start of your own article...

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      If Princess Alex of Paradise Island (Themyscira) uses her official designation then you can't use the "Amazon" command word either.

      I would suppose however that using the key word in the middle of a sentence wouldn't set the thing off. Sloppy if it does.

  34. Gruezi

    Not only 3 syllables

    Our Amazon Echo happily wakes up to the word "Echo" too. Its right there in the settings...

  35. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    Ideally...

    you want "F'tumch" but not "Orgo"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ideally...

      Thank god I'm not the only one old enough to remember this.

      I don't remember ramming a skewer through my head though.

  36. Valerion

    2001

    The day I can rename my Alexa to "HAL" will make me a very happy person.

    Especially if I can get it to open the garage door by saying "Hal. Open the pod bay doors please".

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: 2001

      Apparently Siri already responds to that command.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 2001

      Anyone else think it ironic that the man from Google's name is Chandra?

      (If that's completely lost on you, google "good morning Dr Chandra")

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 2001

      That was almost the first thing I asked Alexa. Her response? "I'm afraid I can't do that Dave - I'm not HAL and we're not in space"...

  37. Cuddles Silver badge

    Security

    "Let's imagine in a few years' time, with millions of Google Homes and Pixel phones around the world, and then during a Presidential Debate, one of the candidates says "OK, Google..." and millions of devices are effectively hijacked."

    Accidental triggering by TVs and such has been noted as a problem since before this sort of thing even had any practical consumer use. But far worse is deliberate malicious use. Stand in a crowded street and say in a loud, slow voice "Hey Siri. Call Mum. Yes.". This isn't just speculation, it's trivial to demonstrate that other people's phones can be activated while in their pocket, not just while in the same room but also in noisy environments like a car. Having a bunch of random people suddenly call their parents or home or some other common contact is little more than an annoyance, but replace "Mum" with "999" and now you have a real problem. Having the ability to spam hundreds of calls to all kinds of important numbers just by shouting at random people in the street is a serious security concern.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Security

      This sort of thing has been done.

      There's a real world geolocation based game called Ingress played on phones, occasionally there are big organised meetups ("anomalies") where hundreds / thousands of people "battle" in a real world physical location.

      Can get many "anomaly" game situations where tens / hundreds of players in a relatively small area.

      (In the game a player is on one of 2 teams)

      One of the teams, before one of these events, set up a strategy where people would at critical points shout out the well known phone assistant commands such as "OK Google", "Hey Siri" and taht would screw up some of the opposing team from playing Ingress as teh assistant would cut in (the assistant subverting team having briefd players to disable their digital assistants to give them the edge)

      This was ages ago, so the assistant "attack vector" on a large scale is not new by any means.

  38. cambsukguy

    Don't they all have a "Only respond to my voice" option?

    Cortana does and it definitely doesn't respond to arbitrary uses of Hey Cortana.

    However, it is nowhere near as good at responding to me!

    As soon as it responds as reliably with that flag on as it does to having the flag off, I will start using it that way.

    Come to think of it, I haven't tried with the latest OS update, you never know.

    Edit: Settings say 'Try to respond only to me' now! They have admitted defeat.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Don't they all have a "Only respond to my voice" option?

      What you're thinking about is voice model training, and yes, Android has that feature via the Google App:

      Google App > Settings > Voice > "Ok Google" detection > Train/Retrain voice model

      It's also the default setting to NOT unlock the phone on a voice command if you use an honest lockscreen (pin, password, or pattern lock).

  39. steward
    Happy

    I like "Horvendile"

    but Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle might sue for copyright violation.

  40. Geoff Johnson

    Next-gen viruses.

    In the middle of the night, the Office PCs will spring to life and shout

    Hey Cortana.

    Open www.where-my-virus-is.com.

    Download virus.msi.

    Install virus.msi.

  41. zathraslives

    Russian Lit. FTW!

    Given that I can get Assistant to trigger on my phone by saying "OK Gogol" as well as "Oh, say Gogol",

    I'm not buying the official explanations for not being able customize it. If I can use one russian author, I should be able to use any. Given the option, I'd go with Chekov, because his hair was awesomely Beatle-bad in early Season 2 of ST:TOS.

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