Amazon Echo Devices Order Doll’s Houses for San Diego Residents After Overhearing TV

Not only is Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant always listening, but she’s apparently always ready to shop…

Amazon Echo is largely considered one of the most useful, not to mention coolest, household gadgets of the last year. A smart speaker that connects to Amazon’s voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service, Alexa, the device can be used for anything from setting reminders and getting weather reports, to placing orders online and communicating with compatible devices around the home. It’s a genuinely fun and helpful gizmo to have around the house, and likely to become a much more common sight in years to come as our homes become increasingly connected.

Much like Microsoft’s Kinect camera accessory for Xbox One, which would occasionally pick up on what it mistakenly interpreted as commands to do things like switch the games console on or off, Echo isn’t without its quirks, however. And, unlike Kinect, Echo is able to make real-world purchases on the owner’s behalf if it thinks it has been told to do so…

Buy Echo: Amazon

According to a reports coming out of San Diego, a number of Echo owners today found that their digital personal assistant had ordered a doll’s house on their behalf after overhearing TV presenter Jim Patterson make an off-the-cuff remark. Following on from a news item, the presenter reportedly said: “I love the little girl saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse’,” prompting a handful of Echo devices around the city to wake up and order just such an item online.

In Amazon’s defence, the new report had been about a little girl who had asked Alexa, via her parents’ Echo Dot device, for that exact toy, so the “command” Patterson issued was quite genuine — he probably hadn’t realised the havoc uttering it could potentially wreak on his viewers, however.

Thankfully, it is possible to disable voice-purchasing via Echo and other such devices, making it necessary for the user to enter a security code to confirm any command to buy an item, but parents (and anyone who follows that old adage about keeping their enemies close) need to turn this on for it to take effect, as it is not enabled by default.

Here’s hoping that unscrupulous advertisers don’t take advantage of this little trick by packing their videos and radio ads with commands for Alexa to order hundreds of rolls of quilted toilet paper or 4K TVs…

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