San Diego News Anchor Mistakenly Triggers Amazon Alexa To Order Dollhouses For TV Watchers

Amazon's Alexa is incredibly useful. It can tell you the weather, update your calendar, and accidentally order a dollhouse while listening to your local news broadcast.

San Diego channel CW6 was reporting about a child who “accidentally” bought a dollhouse and four pounds of cookies through their Amazon Echo. News anchor Jim Patton remarked, “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse’”. Viewers soon started calling into the station complaining that Patton’s statement made their devices try to order a dollhouse.

echo dot

Accidental orders happen surprisingly often. Alexa does adapt to speech patterns and vocabulary, but is unable to completely differentiate between users. According to Stephen Cobb, senior security researcher for ESET North America, “These devices don’t recognize your specific voice and so then we have the situations where you have a guest staying or you have a child who is talking and accidentally order something because the device isn’t aware that it’s a child versus a parent.”

A dollhouse is better than what other children and parents are receiving. A toddler recently spoke to Alexa and received an incredibly foul-mouthed “NSFW” response. Amazon Echo does not include parental controls, although it is currently unclear why Alexa was feeling so naughty in this particular instance.

echo kitchen

Concerns over security will only grow as Amazon Alexa comes to an increasing number of devices and locations. The Wynn hotel and casino in Las Vegas will likely equip their 4,748 rooms with an Amazon Echo smart speaker. Once implemented, guests will be able to issue verbal commands to control the lighting, adjust room temperature, open and close the drapes, and control the television. Accidental room service anyone? The Huawei Mate 9, which was recently released in the United States, is also the first smartphone with Amazon Alexa integration.

For those concerned about accidental purchases, shopping settings can be managed through the Alexa app. Users can turn off voice purchasing and create a confirmation before every order.