Among the current cutting-edge technology is Amazon’s Echo, a wireless, voice-controlled command speaker device, also known as Alexa. Just say her name, give a command, and Alexa will comply – answer questions, get instant weather and traffic reports, play music, get sports scores and schedules, shop online, control smart home products, etc. A description of interest from Amazon’s commercial literature is that “Alexa can respond to voice commands from almost anywhere within earshot…without pressing an activation button.” It is also notable that the device does not distinguish one voice from another, so anyone who prefaces a demand with the name “Alexa” will trigger its action.
The above facts explain two humorous and instructive incidents involving the ever-so-competent Alexa. Many dollhouses were “accidentally” ordered.
Incident one: A six-year-old girl in Dallas, Texas, chatting with her family’s new Echo Alexa, said, “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” The device interpreted the girl’s rhetorical question as a command and complied, ordering an expensive KidKraft Sparkle mansion dollhouse, as well as four pounds of sugar cookies, since the girl also mentioned she’d like a snack of some cookies.
When the packages arrived the next day, the surprised parents soon realized what had happened and updated their device by adding a code for purchases. They also donated the dollhouse to a local children’s hospital. They kept the cookies, however, because they had eaten some of them.
Incident two: The above story was reported on a local morning show in San Diego, California. After the report was concluded, the anchor commented, “I love the little girl’s take on it: ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.’” According to the station, there were multiple reports from viewers that the anchor’s comment had triggered their own voice-activated devices to order dollhouses.
Alexa owners can either deactivate voice ordering, or, as the Texas parents did, add a passcode to prevent accidental purchases. According to Amazon, unwanted orders can be returned within 30 days for a full refund.