THE EAVESDROPPING AMAZON ECHO and its Alexa virtual assistant dicked around with an owner's thermostat after confusing a radio broadcast with a voice command.
Bone idle people with plenty of spare cash can normally yell at the Amazon Echo to wake up Alexa and get her to play songs, turn on lights or do other smart home things.
But the tech backfired for Roy Hagar, who wrote to US radio programme Listen Up to explain that a previous broadcast about Alexa prompted the robo-assistant to mess with his heating.
A snippet of the broadcast revealed that Hagar’s thermostat was reset to 70 degrees. We’re assuming Fahrenheit rather than Celsius, otherwise Hagar might have be a tad too hot and bothered to write.
Hagar’s Echo wasn’t the only one with a rogue Alexa, as other owners of the smart home gadget have noticed that it starts acting oddly when hearing its name.
Rather than foreshadow the rise of the machines and unnerve Steve Wozniak any further, Alexa has shown that it isn’t picky about whose voice it obeys. And like one of those big, dumb friendly dogs that can be found bumbling around parks, Alexa will pretty much answer anyone.
But there’s an easy fix: don’t put the Echo in the same room as the radio. This subtle solution seemed to be lost on Jeff Finan, whose Echo was right next to his radio, prompting Alexa to start playing an NPR News summary when it heard its name mentioned.
This is not the first time that gadgets with Orwellian listening tech have overhead commands from broadcasts and befuddled their owners. An advert featuring Aaron Paul triggered Xbox One consoles to switch on when the Breaking Bad star said: “Xbox on”. This didn’t please several console owners who clearly failed to understand the irony of #firstworldproblems. µ
The INQUIRER's sister site Computing will be holding an Internet of Things Business Summit in London on May 12. Attendance is free to qualifying end users and places are already going fast. Visit the event page to see the agenda and to sign up. µ
You're not the voice, try and understand it
Not 'Appy bunnies
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