Alexa's oddball 'Away Mode' skill aims to keep burglars at bay

What do you do to keep your home safe when you go out? A large growling dog is the go-to house protector for many, but not everyone has the space, time, or money to care for such a creature. One of the oldest tricks in the book is to turn on the TV when you leave to make it sound to passers-by like someone’s in.

A new Alexa skill called Away Mode draws on the same theme, making it sound like a real conversation is taking place inside your home. Created by San Francisco-based home insurance company Hippo, the skill lets owners of Amazon’s Echo speaker and other Alexa-enabled devices play different conversations through their devices. Hippo describes the dialogues as “lengthy and awkward audio tracks to ward off unwanted visitors from your home.”

Seven different ones are currently available, each lasting between 47 and 72 minutes, which makes Away Mode suitable for quick errands rather than long trips. The topics are wide and varied, and include a “book club meeting where everything but the book is discussed,” a “passionate argument over the rules of a complicated board game,” and one in which “two average guys brainstorm what’s unique about themselves so they can start a podcast about it.” Oh, and there’s also an “emergency PTA meeting to discuss memes, fidget spinners, and other teen fads.” If the conversation topics sound a little offbeat, it’s because they were created by writers from the likes of Saturday Night Live and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

When you enable the skill, Alexa says: “In five seconds, I will start playing a random extended audio track that will make it sound like someone insufferable is home.” The company told USA Today that Away Mode should be regarded more as a bit of fun than a serious effort to improve home security, though it’s hoped it will prompt people to review their home security setup. If you don’t have an Alexa-enabled speaker but want to learn more about how smart gadgets can help boost home security, Digital Trends has some helpful suggestions to get you started.

But if you do have such a speaker and want some more ideas on what you can do with it, then take a moment to check out our list of 16 Alexa skills that will help you get more out of your device.

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