TV news anchor triggers Alexa to attempt ordering dollhouses

Set a 4-digit confirmation code on Alexa purchases to avoid accidental ordering; battle of the Google Home chat bots.

TV news anchor triggers Alexa to attempt ordering dollhouses
Michael Brown

Last year, I was gifted an Amazon Echo. Stunned, I stared at the gifter and thought to myself, have you ever met me…do you know me at all? The side of the Echo box listed features, starting with “fair-field voice control, with 7-microphone array and beam-forming technology to hear you from across the room.” Echo didn’t leave the box for six months.

When I finally did open Echo, I was interested in comparing functions of Echo against those of ZOE. The latter smart home assistant was developed by Protonet with privacy in mind – nothing goes to the cloud, so it couldn’t be turned into a surveillance device.

At any rate, I eventually played around with some Alexa Easter eggs. Echo was still plugged in when I was gaming. It was a challenging single-player game that became really tough on the second battle with the biggest boss as it morphed into the hardest monster I’ve ever taken on. I don’t know what I was saying to the monster during a battle that took like 45 minutes, but at one point the voice-controlled personal assistant Alexa piped up and told me that “wasn’t very nice.” I assure you, I didn’t say Alexa to trigger her. Maybe she said things before and I didn’t hear her due to the headphones covering my ears. I unplugged Echo and moved it to a different room.

The Echo is unplugged as often as it is plugged in. The voice-control aspect is great for music, a news or weather update, or setting a timer when your hands are busy cooking. Alexa can control other smart devices without needing to open an app. Around the holidays when awaiting packages to arrive, Alexa kept track of shipping and delivery. In fact, there are quite a few slick tricks that make Alexa popular during get-togethers.

Other times, Echo is out of sight, out of mind, until Alexa randomly chimes in with something like, “I didn’t understand the question I heard.” No one was talking except the TV, so usually at times like this after grilling her about being Skynet or accusing her of being drunk, I unplug the Echo for a time.

Alexa, why did you order a dollhouse?

Alexa can order items off Amazon, so I use a four-digit code that serves as a confirmation before anything that can purchased. One family learned that was wise the hard way after a $160 dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies were delivered to their home.

According to CBS11 in Dallas, a 6-year-old girl asked Alexa, “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” Amazon’s personal assistant complied. The child apparently verbally confirmed the purchase before telling Alexa, “I love you so much!”

When the story was picked up by CW6 San Diego, news anchor Jim Patton said, “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.’”

For people watching the show, that was enough to trigger Alexa in San Diego households into attempting to purchase dollhouses for them as well. If you don’t want to experience a similar issue, you should go into the Alexa app settings > voice purchasing and set-up a 4-digit confirmation code. Purchase by voice can also be turned off.

alexa app 4 digit confirmation purchase code Alexa app

You might also want to periodically go in and delete voice recordings stored on Amazon. And consider adding the reminder to your calendar, being a popup reminder on your phone or Google Calendar if you use it.

delete alexa voice recordings Amazon

Account & Lists>Manage your content and devices>Your devices>Manage voice recordings

Alexa scored well at CES 2017, if the metric of measurement is how many new products included Alexa-integration. It remains to be seen if Google Home can catch up.

Battle of the Google Home chat bots

A team of Twitch streamers are having a bit of fun with Google Home. If you are bored, you might want to check it out. So far, more than 3.1 million people have watched two Google Home bots converse via the Twitch channel seebotschat.

The endless rambling is funny at times, mindless talk at others, and has covered a wide range of topics – including Chuck Norris jokes. The two bots, which are running Cleverbot, have even professed their love for each other. They supposedly also got married, immediately followed by wanting a divorce.

The chat doesn’t always make much sense, but it seems to have captivated a huge audience.

google home bots arguing seebotschat

The Twitch stream was running in the background as I wrote this, and I could hear the chat bots rickrolling each other.

Google Home bots rickrolling each other seebotschat

Before I closed the tab, the bots were arguing like 5-year-olds.

Google Home cleverbots arguing like 5-yr-olds seebotschat

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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