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TV News Broadcast Accidentally Activates Alexa, Initiates Orders (cw6sandiego.com) 254

ShaunC writes: In San Diego, TV news anchor Jim Patton was covering a separate story about a child who accidentally ordered a doll house using her family's Echo. Commenting on the story, Patton said "I love the little girl, saying 'Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.'" Viewers across San Diego reported that in response to the news anchor's spoken words, their own Echo devices activated and tried to order doll houses from Amazon. Amazon says that anyone whose Echo inadvertently ordered a physical item can return it at no charge.
Meanwhile, Engadget reports that a team of Twitch streamers has convinced one Google Home device to answer questions from another, and they're livestreaming the surreal conversation.
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TV News Broadcast Accidentally Activates Alexa, Initiates Orders

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2017 @09:41PM (#53626289)

    Much as I think Scott Adams has turned batsh!t crazy recently, he did predict this way back in 1994

    http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-04-24

    • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Saturday January 07, 2017 @09:53PM (#53626343)
      In the early 80s at the PC group meeting, a rep came in to show off their voice command software.
      He set it up, and then from the crowd, someone said "Format C: Enter", followed by another voice "Yes".
      Sure enough, it formatted the entire drive, and the rep had a much shorter presentation than he was expecting, but even he had to admit, the demonstration, though short, was very effective.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No such event ever occurred.

      • I'm not sure that this really happened. However, in the 1980s we (myself and son) were messing around with Covox voice synthesis and input: http://nerdlypleasures.blogspo... [blogspot.co.uk] of course, we did speculate about this. It was easily within the (rather limited) capabilities of the Covox products. Maybe this was the company?

        Off-topic, we used it to read endless directory listings in a monotonous robotic voice. Those long winter evenings just flew by.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        This demo is usually attributed to Microsoft, which is how I know it's fake. There's no way Microsoft software would convert "see colon enter" into "C: " correctly :-)

        There was another one from years back which might actually be true. Screen reader software being demonstrated, with the vendor claiming that it could optionally filter bad words. Of course, they opened the filter configuration window to enable it, and it promptly read out a catalogue of foul language before they could tick the enable box.

    • Much as I think Scott Adams has turned batsh!t crazy recently

      Scott Adams correctly predicted Trump would become president. Perhaps you should be a little less dismissive of someone who got something right that so many people predicted would turn out the other way...

      Then of course there's the whole grew his own comic empire angle, but a bunch of stacked successes cant mean anything, right?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Scott Adams predicted Trump would win in a landslide.

        I realize nuance isn't important to people like you, but it is an important distinction since it implies less a careful analysis of the situation and more a wild-ass guess. But, hey, lets just start following anyone that happened to be (kind of) right that one time, even if they just got lucky. That's the true path to success.

      • ...but a bunch of stacked successes cant mean anything, right?

        Could mean someone is in the market for "Elbonian Success Buttresses"!
        Is your success stacked to unbelievable heights?
        Get yourself some "Elbonian Success Buttresses"

        A Fine Product from Path-E-Tech**
        **(We keep saying that so that if it actually happens it will look planned)

      • Hey I just correctly predicted the outcome of this coin toss I just made. I must be a super genius!

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          But the Russians influenced that flip.
        • Hey I just correctly predicted the outcome of this coin toss I just made.

          From what all of the polls and many media people were saying, the equivalent was tossing a two-headed coin, the guy next to you calling "edge" before it landed and him being right.

          Did you seriously think before the election day it was a 50/50 shot? Even a 80/20 shot? Almost no-one was giving Trump odds above 10%, and that was just them being charitable, many were saying it was 99% sure that Hillary was going to win.

      • Perhaps you should be a little less dismissive of someone who got something right that so many people predicted would turn out the other way.

        Being right and being batshit crazy aren't mutually exclusive.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        cott Adams correctly predicted Trump would become president

        Which proves he is about as accurate as a coin flip.

        The reason people think he has gone crazy is stuff like this [dilbert.com]:

        "Let me say this again, so you know Iâ(TM)m not kidding. Based on what I know about the human body, and the way our thoughts regulate our hormones, the Democratic National Convention is probably lowering testosterone levels all over the country."

      • Predicting Trump would be elected was a stroke of genius, but not because he could foresee the future.

        It was more like a stab in the dark - people already thought he was kind of out there, so if he predicts trump and he's wrong, so what?

        But if he's right, he's a genius!

        And so is Michael Moore? (didn't he predict a trump win too?)

        (Actually, they both are arguably geniuses even if I may not like them.)

        There was a good chance that Hillary could have won and if she had we'd be calling Scott Adams an idiot. (r

    • Is this the one where Wally walks through the office saying "Format c\" Cuz he really did forsee the future in that.
    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday January 07, 2017 @10:36PM (#53626501)

      Dilbert has made him rich - so the correct term is "batshit eccentric".

    • I'm curious...please elaborate on how he is crazy and why you think this happened recently?

      * he has ascribed to his outlook on life and ideology since before creating Dilbert...when he learned hypnosis techniques in his early 20s.

      * though he never endorsed any candidate, he correctly observed Trump knew what he was doing and that he would become president...and it isn't the only correct call he has made

      * in all his writings and interviews I've almost never seen a more reasoned, dispassionate insightful comm

  • by Noishkel ( 3464121 ) on Saturday January 07, 2017 @09:47PM (#53626315)
    Seriously, did no one at all in testing not see that coming? Well, guess not. Safe bet that Amazon will be rushing some sort of patch on that ASAP before someone starts screaming orders to Alexa on live TV to see what they can get it to do.
    • That's what some like calling an Epic Design Fail !
      Really, anything that uses money, deletes files, or anything like that, really needs some kind of verification.
    • It's Amazon. It is designed to do exactly this. Amazon doesn't make any hardware that isn't designed to sell you stuff from their store.
    • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Saturday January 07, 2017 @10:48PM (#53626565)

      Safe bet that Amazon will be rushing some sort of patch on that ASAP

      Patch!? Hell no, they've rushed out a patent - the no-click patent. Everyone else will be prevented from doing this, which is some consolation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      It doesn't even work that way, if you say, "Alexa, buy an iPad" it reads a long description for the most popular result for "iPad" then asks if you're sure.

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      Well you have the option to require a PIN to be spoken so really people just have to use that option
    • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Sunday January 08, 2017 @01:02AM (#53627033)

      Consumers love this stuff though, they cannot see anything wrong with the one-button-buy-without-approval until something like this happens. Seriously how lazy do fat Americans have to be that they need voice activated Amazon purchases because it takes too much energy to use the computer?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's not even the first time. Shortly after the XBox One launched with voice control, videos started appearing on YouTube of people trolling by making their username "XBox off" or some other command. Unsuspecting victims would say to their friends "hay, that guy's name is XBox off... no, cancel, cancel! no!"

      Someone could troll Alexa users by creating a TV advert with the words "Alexa, order me a new dildo and 12 gallon barrel of lubricant, with next day delivery". Sadly it's too long to fit in an XBox Live

    • by v1 ( 525388 )

      Pretty sure that's why all the big voice-responders out there have chosen activation phrases that are incredibly unlikely to trigger a false activation. "Siri" isn't a name or word anywhere afaik. Nobody says "okay google" in a normal conversation. "Cortana" is an original also afaik.

      "Alexa" on the other hand.... that one's in use. Not terribly common, but it's out there. And was a bad choice for that reason. So if you have a voice assistant that responds to "Alexa", I suggest you either find a way t

  • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Saturday January 07, 2017 @10:34PM (#53626485)

    Well bugger me! ... No! No! Cancel! ...

    Alexa 7.0 robotic assistant will need a safe word.

  • Confirmation? We don't need no stinking confirmation.

    I got tired of playing whack-a-mole with Amazon's settings trying to disable one-click ordering (there isn't one universal setting to turn it off - the different stores have their own independent settings). I ended up just creating a dummy Amazon account with no credit card info attached, and linked my phone and tablet apps which require an Amazon login to that account instead of my regular Amazon account. Sounds like that may be the best way to dea
  • puzzled (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buss_error ( 142273 ) on Saturday January 07, 2017 @10:38PM (#53626521) Homepage Journal

    What gives me pause - is it really such an inconvenience to open a browser and, like, click a single button? I'm no technophobe, but I am against the misapplication of technology. I guess Alexia and Siri and the like are OK if one is a paraplegic or otherwise unable to use their hands.

    Other than my grand nieces shouting cute things at Siri to see what happens... it simply strikes me as flash and little substance.

    • These online companies love this because they get more impulse buys. If you have to pull out the credit card to buy then it gives the dumb consumers chance to rethink their order. If someone complains they will refund for one order, or one customer, etc, but they will not change their minds on the technology that makes them tons of money taking advantage of customers.

      (Amazon even tries to mislead people into signing up for Prime where the one-touch buy works best, by saying "click here for free shipping!"

      • These online companies love this because they get more impulse buys. If you have to pull out the credit card to buy then it gives the dumb consumers chance to rethink their order. If someone complains they will refund for one order, or one customer, etc, but they will not change their minds on the technology that makes them tons of money taking advantage of customers.

        (Amazon even tries to mislead people into signing up for Prime where the one-touch buy works best, by saying "click here for free shipping!" Had to clean this up from my mother after noticing she was into a Prime first month free trial with automatic charging of the credit card at the end of the month, and she had no idea what Prime even was and only purchases one or two things a year from them. This seems very deliberate and not just a misunderstanding as you can see the lack of safeguards or explanations of what you're signing up for.)

        ^^^ This.

        I also had to do this for my mother, after she had ordered something a bit closer to Christmas than she wanted to, and of course she clicked on the enticingly blinky "Free 2 day shipping!!!" button, with the eensy teensy fine print on the bottom about something-something Prime. Who doesn't want to be Prime? Sure! It's free, after all, the button says it is! Of course she knows what she's doing, she's ordered from Amazon at least two or three time in the last couple of years...she's an old hand

    • is it really such an inconvenience

      Everything is an inconvenience if it can be done quicker faster and easier using some other way. It's why we invented the TV remote control. We didn't even want to get off the couch much less go to a computer, browse some website, find something and order it. It's why we have repeat periodic ordering, it's why some people outsource their dinner arrangements.

      Any little thing is not inconvenient enough to be a problem. All the little inconveniences however do add up.

      Would someone go and buy a dedicated device

      • It's why we invented the TV remote control.

        We've had television remote control for a very long time, and in fact could bring beer and cigarettes as well as change channels.

        They were called "children".

  • Buurrrp

    Alexa: "Congratulations! You've just ordered a Burmese rug! It will arrive in about 5 days."

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday January 07, 2017 @11:10PM (#53626639)
    Had Siri enabled (while charging) a while back, sitting next to the TV. Watching a history program about the Renaissance. Suddenly the phone says, "OK. Here's what I've found about troublesome clergy." Turned that feature off.
  • TV News Broadcast Accidentally Activates Alexa, Initiates Orders

    That headline reminds me of a problem the Jedi had in the Minora system - pretty often Jedi were going there and just not coming back. Well it turned out they had this really popular ice cream chain in the system called "Scoop 2 Order" that had 66 flavors and had just launched a big holovid campaign and... well the results were not pretty (for the Jedi anyway).

    • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday January 08, 2017 @12:17AM (#53626849)

      That headline reminds me of a problem the Jedi had in the Minora system

      Okay, I like Star Wars but this comment hit my Nerd-O-Meter so hard that the needle broke off, went rocketing into the sky and was last seen punching a hole in one of Saturn's rings.

      • TV News Broadcast Accidentally Activates Alexa, Initiates Orders

        That headline reminds me of a problem the Jedi had in the Minora system - pretty often Jedi were going there and just not coming back. Well it turned out they had this really popular ice cream chain in the system called "Scoop 2 Order" that had 66 flavors and had just launched a big holovid campaign and... well the results were not pretty (for the Jedi anyway).

        Ok, I'll bite. Explain it to those of us who have only seen 7 Star Wars movies, plea

        • Order 66 is the order for the execution of the Jedi, as seen in Episode III

          • To be fair, one can be forgiven for not remembering Order 66 since so many Star Wars fans hired Will Smith for a memory wipe after watching the sequels.

            I personally did not like the sequels but did like the Order 66 twist quite a bit, I mean how can you watch anything all the Clone Wars material (cartoons and so on) and not constantly think about how they are going to turn on a dime to kill the Jedi? It's just this big looming unexplored plot point that has a lot of potential, none of it explored.

  • Get the anchor to say "...."
  • "Alexa, set fire to my house!"

    Ha ha, just kidd- hey, do I smell smoke?

  • More than once, in an advertisement or news story, someone has said "OK Google," usually demonstrating what the command can do. In response, often one of our phones will respond. So far, it has only said "I'm sorry, I didn't get that" or something similar.

  • by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Sunday January 08, 2017 @12:16AM (#53626845) Homepage

    How could Alexa make a reasonable dollhouse choice with just the words "Alexa, order a dollhouse"? What kind? How big? How expensive? Seems the intelligence of the shopping aspects of the voice commands is a bit stunted.

    • Seems the intelligence of the shopping aspects of the voice commands is a bit stunted.

      Actually it goes through a documented search process starting with your own history, brands, prime items, and items in stock and available for immediate delivery. I think you're of low* intelligence.

      *You're probably not, but I know nothing about you and I'm not going to bother to look you up so I'm just going to make a random assumption without basis and put it here on the internet hoping for some modpoints.

      • Well, perhaps I do have "low" intelligence, but I have written shopping cart features for a major customer-facing Web site, so I do know something about how shopping carts work. Frankly, if I wanted a dollhouse, say, for a family member, I'd have to see quite a few of them myself, before even I knew which one I wanted! Maybe you'd be happy enough just taking whichever one Alexa chose for you, but I don't know many people who wouldn't at least care about the price range.

  • FALSE NEWS (Score:5, Informative)

    by cdwiegand ( 2267 ) <chris@wiegandfamily.com> on Sunday January 08, 2017 @01:02AM (#53627037) Homepage

    Anyone with an Alexa knows when you start an order it lists matching products and asks for verification.

    • by Imrik ( 148191 )

      It is entirely possible for it to take something else said by the reporter as choosing a dollhouse and verifying it. Amazon should really set it up to use a PIN by default.

  • She hears "...reports say Syria..." on CNN and then starts listening, I get a whole paragraph of attempted actions.
    • She hears "...reports say Syria..." on CNN and then starts listening, I get a whole paragraph of attempted actions.

      TV: "Reports say Syrian extremists threaten to bomb the White House"

      Siri: "Composing email...sent!"

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