Change Your Voice Assistant Wake word

Every hands-free voice assistant has a keyword you must say before giving commands.  If you have someone in your family with a name similar to the wakeword, it can get annoying as your voice assistant starts listening for commands everytime you mention something to your significant other, children or roommates. 

Luckily, there is a way to change this, to some degree.  The default wake words for the most popular voice assistants are:

  • Alexa, ...
  • Ok Google, ...
  • Hey Siri, ...
  • Hey Cortana, ...

Remember, a wakeword is not always available.  Platforms like FireTV, Echo Tap, Apple TV, older iPhones and iPads don't have a hands free mode.  On those platforms you usually delineate your  voice commands by pressing a button before you start speaking and release the button after you are done, giving the system a chance to know exactly the start and end to your voice command.

Out of the four voice assistants, Alexa is the only one which lets you change the wakeword.  To do this, head over to the Alexa Companion App, from the hamburger menu on the left hand side choose Settings > (Device Name) > Wake Word.  

You see a drop down list, of which you  can choose one of four wakewords, "Alexa", "Amazon", "Computer" and "Echo.  Choose the one which you prefer the best.

UPDATE: 1/29/2017 - Amazon is always adding new features.  They have addded a new wakeword: "Computer".  If the new option is not showing up for you, try pressing the mute button on the top and leave it off for 30 minutes.  It will cause a check for the new firmware.  The above write-up and image was updated to reflect this.

Siri, Cortana and Google

To use hands free mode with Siri, you must train her first.  Unfortunately  there is no way to change the wakeword once you have enabled hands-free mode.   If you are using Siri on macOS there is no built-in setting to allow hands-free operation, however in another case of 'people want this', an unofficial work-around is now available to add this capability. 

For Cortana, you must first enable "Hey Cortana" to use hands-free mode.  Much like Siri, there is no built in setting to change the wakeword.  Although, there is an open source application you can install called MyCortana which you gives you the ability to add new wakewords.  Including any wakeword you desire.  This is a third party solution and not necessarily endorsed by Microsoft.   

With Google Home, there is also no way to set the wakeword.  Some have reported that you can use "Hey Google", which is just slightly different.  We see a similar story unfolding in that there is no way to change the wakeword. 

Why No Arbitrary Wakeword?

Unfortunately, as you can see, there is no way to set an arbitrary wake word of your own, like "Computer, ...", "Jarvis, ..." or "Coffee Robot, ...".  There are probably two reasons for this.  The first is that the wake word needs to be a word that is relatively unique and multiple syllables.  This is for the fact that all manufacturers want to make sure they can accurately respond to the wakeword.  A single syllable wakeword would probably by triggered too often.   

Finally, although not printed anywhere, I believe there is a certain aspect of market branding that each company wants to make sure you are aware you are talking to their voice assistant.  For Example, by having Apple users use "Hey Siri" as their wakeword, it reinforced the fact that they are using an Apple product and when it works so great, they will tell others.  When those within ears-reach hear somebody using Siri it reinforced the brand (for better or worst) and makes people aware.  

Will we ever be able to choose our own wakeword?  We'll see.  This technology is in it's early stages and there are changes and improvements happening all the time. 


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