November 5, 2016
Man builds Amazon’s Alexa into singing fish, horror ensues
Technological know-how combined with boredom and/or curiosity can be both a terrifying and wonderful thing, as demonstrated by the work of developer Brian Kane, who recently hacked his Alexa digital assistant so that its voice comes from the mouth of an electronic singing fish.
As GeekWire and The Verge explained earlier this week, Kane somehow took advantage of the Alexa API (which Amazon opened in April after releasing the Echo Dot) and made it so that the service’s answers would be delivered through the mouth of the iconic Big Mouth Billy Bass.
Big Mouth Billy Bass, for those who might not remember, was a device that was big in the 90s and early 2000s. It was built from latex rubber with a plastic mechanical skeleton inside it, and while it appeared to be a mere a trophy fish hanging on a wall, it could be activated to cause its head to turn outward, become animated and lip-synch to a popular song of the era.
Now, as demonstrated by his Facebook video, Kane has breathed new life into this product of a bygone era by adapting it so that it not only provides Alexa’s answers to any inquiry, but does so by perfectly moving its mouth in time to the response – a truly marvelous and horrifying feat!
So how did he do it? Sadly, the world may never know.
In the footage Kane posted to social media, the Alexa-enabled fish tells him what the weather will be in Cambridge (45 degrees and rainy, if you’re curious). However, as The Verge noted, the Billy Bass has no built-in microphone, so it must be utilizing an unseen offboard one.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kane’s work has garnered a lot of attention online, with the video he posted on Facebook garnering over 400,000 views in just a few days and various tech-centric media outlets weighing in on it, with GeekWire calling it “unsettling,” Mashable deeming the creation “horrifying” and Android Police declaring it merely “bizarre.”
Of course, plenty of others absolutely love what he had wrought, with The Next Web calling Kane “the hero we all need” and gushing that if his work “[is] not worthy of an award, I really must not understand science.” Likewise, TechCrunch hailed the work, saying that if you ever wanted a personal assistant’s voice to emanate from a talking fish, then “you’re dreams have come true.”
Naturally, people will be curious about how Kane was able to pull off this unique feat, but sadly, he has not shared many details as of yet. As mentioned earlier, most experts speculate that Kane somehow harnessed Alexa’s API, but the specifics remain unclear. TechCrunch suggests that he may be using a Raspberry Pi to run the API, or that he could have potentially gutted an Echo and attached it directly to the Billy Bass unit itself.
The only way we’ll ever know for sure is if Kane comes clean and reveals how he did it.
Image credit: mike dee/YouTube