A family in Portland experienced a rather nasty surprise several weeks ago when a friend got in contact with them claiming to have been sent a recorded piece of their conversation by the family’s Echo speaker.
Danielle, who didn’t want to share her surname, explained to local news station KIRO7 that the family had installed Amazon Echo speakers in every room in the house allowing them to control their lighting, heating and security system.
Unfortunately Danielle’s husband then received a rather alarming phone call from a work colleague who had received a strange audio message on their phone.
“He proceeded to tell us that he had received audio files of recordings from inside our house,” Danielle said.
“At first, my husband was, like, ‘no you didn’t!’ And the (recipient of the message) said ‘You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘oh gosh, you really did hear us.’”
Defying quite astonishing odds, the Echo speaker had first misheard the wake word ‘Alexa’, it had then again thought it heard the words ‘Send a message’.
Having recorded the message Echo finally heard what it thought was the name of a person in their address book.
As you can imagine, the chances of Amazon’s Echo speaker mishearing the word ‘Alexa’ are actually fairly common. Anyone who owns one knows of the time it suddenly woke up for no reason.
However, for an Echo to mistakenly hear three commands in a row? The chances must have been remarkably low.
We’ve asked Amazon what happened and will update this piece when we get a response.
In a statement to HuffPost UK, Amazon gave this account:
“Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.” Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. At which point, Alexa said out loud “To whom?” At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, ”[contact name], right?” Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right”. As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”
While it’s unlikely this happens very often, it’s certainly a wake up to anyone who’s thinking about filling their home with smart speakers.