On March 2, on the air of California radio station KWBU , the “smart assistant” Amazon Echo was discussed – a speaker in the form of a small tower, able to recognize the commands by ear even from a great distance, for example, from the other end of the room. As a reference, the name of the fictitious assistant, Alexa, is used.
The hosts recalled the Echo advertisement from the Superbowl with Alec Baldwin and Missy Elliott, and also listed a number of commands that the device can perform. The column is able not only to include music and provide background information, as do other assistants, but also to connect to “smart house” systems: for example, adjust the temperature or reheat the oven.
After that, the KWBU editorial began to receive letters from listeners, whose Echo worked, after hearing the phrase-appeal on air. One of them complained that Alexa had set the temperature on his home thermostat equal to 21 ° C – it was this command that was pronounced on the radio.
Another listener said that the KWBU ether itself had not been heard, since the radio was right next to Echo, but the column listened to it – it began to lose the news digest from the NPR radio station. The third stated that his Echo went crazy, but did not go into details.
Despite the fact that nothing critical happened in the situation, it once again showed the imperfection of voice assistants who can not identify the owner’s voice. A similar situation occurred in June 2014, when the actor Aaron Paul (“To All Severe”) pronounced a team in the Xbox ad, from which the prefixes from the viewers began to turn on themselves.
Some other companies embed in their voice assistants protection from such situations. For example, in iOS it is possible to enable voice recognition for the phrase “Hey, Siri”, but to activate it you first need to train the assistant to recognize the voice of the owner by saying a few typical phrases.
Amazon introduced Echo in November 2014: the column costs $ 170, and since it is constantly connected to the mains, it is ready to hear the voice command at any time. In early March 2016, Amazon released two more devices from this family: a portable Bluetooth-column Echo Tap for $ 130, recognizing commands at the touch of a button, as well as “washers” Dot for $ 90, which can be placed throughout the house to increase coverage.