In millions of homes across America (and some in Australia, if you can get your hands on one), Amazon’s voice-controlled personal assistant, Alexa, is listening. And whether you want to or not, she’s ready to play.
According to San Diego’s XETV-TDT, the trouble started on Thursday, when the station aired a story about a 6-year-old girl who reportedly bought a $US170 ($233) dollhouse by asking her family’s Alexa-enabled Amazon Echo, “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?”
“I loved the little girl’s take on it,” said anchor Jim Patton at the time. “‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.'”
That, apparently, was enough to prompt complaints from viewers “all over San Diego,” who claimed their own Alexa devices tried to place orders for dollhouses in response.
While Echo devices have voice ordering turned on by default, Amazon noted in response to the initial story that it can be turned off in Alexa’s settings or protected with a confirmation code. The company also offered free returns on any accidental physical order.
Currently, Alexa doesn’t have a voice recognition system to identify whether the speaker is an authorised user. When it comes to a children pursuing their desires, however, there may not be any system secure enough. Just last month, another 6-year-old placed her sleeping mother’s thumb on a smartphone, confirming an order for $US250 ($342) in Pokémon toys.