Some people leave lights, music or the TV on when they’re away from home in an attempt to ward off burglars, but a new Alexa skill called “Away Mode” has a different idea. Instead of lights and noises, you can keep your home safe from unwanted visitors by playing lengthy audio tracks that sound like real – and completely ridiculous – conversations.
When you launch Away Mode, Alexa will play one of seven audio tracks penned by comedy writers from SNL, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and UCB. The company doesn’t have permission to share all the writers’ names at this time, but says there were half a dozen involved, including Kristin Belka Maier of “Always Sunny…”
These include gems like “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,” “Emergency PTA Meeting To Discuss Memes, Fidget Spinners, and Other Teen Fads,” and more.
There are conversations from a book club where no one discusses the book, a mom walking her daughter through IKEA assembly over the phone, a stay-at-home mom losing her s***, and argument over a board game.
For example, the mom can be heard yelling things like: “For the love of god! Cadence! No. No! Okay, it looks like someone should put their listening ears on! Momma’s gonna count to three!”
A would-be podcaster pitches his friend: “Okay. You know how much I love ketchup, right?”
The board game players argue: “Hand me the rulebook! The other rulebook! That’s the rules reference…. No, it’s in the learn-to-play guide. That’s the quick reference!”
The mom gives IKEA instructions: “You put the cylinders into the holes. No, wait. Yeah. You put the cylinders into the holes. You see ’em? Good. Well, wait, hold on a sec. I think I missed a step. Now it’s saying you put that piece on what looks like a fully built dresser. When did that happen?”
After enabling the skill on your Alexa device, you can cycle through the various conversations by saying “Next.”
The idea for this wacky skill comes from the folks at homeowners’ insurance startup Hippo Insurance, who are using it as a means to get a little free advertising. (Score!)
Explains the company, you can turn the volume up and leave your apartment, knowing that any potential burglar will be scared off by “thinking that someone is still at home who is absolutely insufferable.”
“Hippo was looking for a way to engage a broad audience in a conversation about home security and home insurance,” a spokesperson said. “We figured it was easier to drive awareness and education through humor, so we brought on some of the funniest people we know to pull it off.”
The tracks themselves are around an hour or so long, so Away Mode makes more sense for those times you’re out running errands, but can’t take the place of things like timers that turn off and on lights while away on vacation, for example.
We tried the skill ourselves, and it worked as advertised – though we didn’t listen to the full tracks. (We should also note that one Amazon Skill Store review talks about the skill not responding to voice prompts, but the skill doesn’t ask you to choose a number, as the reviewer says – they must have found it while still in testing.)
There are other “burglar deterrent” skills for Alexa if you’re interested in the general concept, like this one that plays more realistic audio. Or those that play fake house alarms or sound like guard dogs. But Away Mode is just a little more fun.
You can try it yourself here.
Updated, 8/3/18 12:50 pm et, with a few more details.