Alexa’s new ‘Away Mode’ feature chases burglars away using the power of small talk.
When you leave your home for an extended time, you have a handful of ways to deter would-be burglars, including sticking signs with a security company's logo in your lawn or on your apartment door, scheduling lights to turn on at certain hours, or owning a dog with a vicious bark. But now a new Alexa skill called "Away Mode" lets you tap into the power of awkward conversations to make crooks think twice before barging into your abandoned abode.
"Away Mode" is a free Alexa skill (brought to you by Hippo Insurance) that plays one of several lengthy pre-recorded conversations to trick passersby into thinking that your home is occupied by people carrying on cringey, albeit humorous conversations and arguments. Examples of these recordings include:
- "Mom walks daughter through assembling a Malm Dresser over the phone"
- "Couple has breakup while also trying to watch tv"
- "Two average guys brainstorm what's unique about themselves so they can start a podcast about it"
- "Passionate argument over rules of complicated board game"
On the Alexa Skill page for "Away Mode," Hippo Insurance says, "It’s like that scene from Home Alone, except instead of cardboard cutouts, it’s insufferable conversations written by the writers of SNL, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and UCB." It's a fun concept, and listening to snippets of these tracks is mildly entertaining, but user reviews are mixed at best.
As for the security factor, retired police chief Jim Bueermann told USA Today that the premise of "Away Mode" is a good idea in theory. "If this thing mimics real conversation, it’s much more likely to trick the burglar into believing somebody is home."
Kudos to Hippo Insurance for coming up with a creative way to advertise its services, but if you're looking to use Alexa to play audio at home while you're away, there are less-jokey skills to consider.
For those of us who own Google Home devices, there's an easy alternative: Just broadcast the argument you're having with your friends, spouse, or children from your hotel room to your home.