Privacy within the privacy of your home is a concern for users of the Amazon Echo and of any other voice assistant, especially since skills that sync it with your personal accounts were made available. I am okay with my spouse checking my calendar, but I would not be so happy to mistake her appointments with mine! Voice assistants also bring out an an ages old problem that us tecchies detect very well, but others not so much: that of cardinality. An example: when you have one Echo (or multiple, linked Echos acting as one, if your home is bigger than mine!) but you don’t live alone, then it’s quite likely that more than one human will speak to Alexa. Why this one-to-many relationship between humans and machines represents a cardinality problem?
Let’s continue with the example. At home, my spouse and I use our Amazon Echo. We’re both non-English speakers and have distinct accents in English (we learnt the language in different continents). Our Echo sometimes goes crazy understanding one or the other. The Machine Learning element of Alexa must be very confused about supposedly the same human saying the same thing in such different ways at random moments in time! I bet Alexa would be happier if we could let her know that we’re two humans, if we could teach her to tell us apart, and then teach her to understand us better one by one.
If on top of having different voices and different accents, you wish to use individual services information (personal calendars, mail accounts…) then you need to be able to somehow link those individual services with your Echo devices – again, cardinality problem. Which one will Alexa use? Mine or my spouse’s? Why does it have to be only one? Can’t it be both?
Luckily, Amazon has just launched Voice Profiles to achieve this. You configure your Echo devices to pair with as many humans as needed. How? Through the Alexa app on your Smartphone. Here’s how:
- The person whose Amazon account is linked with the Echo device must launch the Alexa app on their Smartphone, visit Settings -> Accounts -> Voice, and follow the instructions.
- The second adult in the household must do the following:
- When both of you are at home, launch the Alexa app on the primary user’s Smartphone.
- Settings -> Accounts -> Household profile, and follow the instructions to set up this new user.
- With any of your Smartphones, log on to the Alexa app with the credential of the second adult in the household.
- Follow the instructions below.
- Any other humans other than the primary account holder must do the following:
- Install the Alexa app on your Smartphone if you haven’t done so.
- Log in with your Amazon account (or create one if you’re not the second adult in the household).
- Provide the info that’s required to pair up with the Echo device.
- (you can skip Alexa calling and messaging if you don’t want to use that with your Echo).
- Settings -> Accounts -> Voice, and follow the instructions.
Here’s the full instructions.