Owners of Amazon’s new gizmo, the Echo, have been left out of pocket after the device ordered things it heard on television. While the Echo is being billed as a personal assistant, designed to make life much simpler, some owners say their gadget has been ordering items being discussed on a TV programme.
Many people have received the Echo, which comes with a virtual assistant called Alexa, as a Christmas present. It answers questions and performes tasks when asked, including online shopping. However, a recent incident in America has proved that users need to be careful about what Alexa is listening to.
One family reported that Alexa had ordered a $170 dollhouse without their knowledge, after their daughter Brooke Neitzel had said: “Can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?”
Alexa immediately picked up on it and ordered a KidKraft Sparkle mansion dollhouse. Then, when the incident was being discussed on TV, anchor Jim Patton sent Echo’s across the US into overdrive when he said: I love the little girl saying “Alexa ordered me a dollhouse”.’
Viewers watching in their own homes reported Alexa picking up on the order and buying dolls houses for them. Because the machines do not recognise a specific voice, it means that a child can order something, or even a television show.
The Federal Trade Commission is now looking into the incidents in a bid to make sure that devices which work through voice command are safe and secure. While the technology is set to become more sophisticated in coming years, Brooke’s mum and dad have added a security code now for purchases. Rather than sending the dollhouse back, they decided to donate it to a local children’s hospital. Experts are now warning people to ensure that they set passcodes on their devices to prevent unwanted and fraudulent purchases.