back to article TV anchor says live on-air 'Alexa, order me a dollhouse' – guess what happens next

A San Diego TV station sparked complaints this week – after an on-air report about a girl who ordered a dollhouse via her parents' Amazon Echo caused Echoes in viewers' homes to also attempt to order dollhouses. Telly station CW-6 said the blunder happened during a Thursday morning news package about a Texan six-year-old who …

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Re: @ Lee D

"But you're saying OK Google clear enough"

Does your buddy not remember setting up "OK Google" where he has to repeat the phrase several times so that it will learn his voice so that it only responds to him? Obviously he forgot that...

I dont doubt that it cant handle your accent, voice recognition struggles with mine too (An odd mix of Norfolk, Lancashire, Central Scotland and the highlands) but I generally find speaking slowly and loudly works (pretend you're on holiday in Spain).

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" When they make more money off you without requesting confirmation and by enabling voice ordering by default, guess what happens?"

Utter bollocks, it will increase the number of returns that they will get which will cost more than the interest they will get from having the money in their account for the few days until they have to refund it - I suppose there might be people who cant be bothered returning the items - generally I would expect this to only be low value items delivered to people with quite a bit of disposable income for whom taking the time to return the item would be a waste of their time.

Maybe in countries with crap consumer laws... but in the UK at least they would be obliged to accept the return within 14 days.

It does seem like alexa should say "I am ordering XXX, please confirm?" It could possibly also pop up an alert on the account holders phone to alert them and give them the opportunity to cancel the order.

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"I have met quite a few Americans who complain about having difficulties in understanding the English some Brits produce. "

I work with a lancastrian who complains about difficulties understanding the english of surrounding counties, let alone further afield.

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@zvonr Absolutely!

I don't know if Dragonsoft is still around, but you had to train it to your voice for dictation.

They could have done the same thing had they thought about it or even cared.

People don't know how careless tech companies can be while they chase the almighty dollar.

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> When they make more money off you without requesting confirmation and by enabling voice ordering by default, guess what happens?

Distance selling legislation for starters.

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Re: "Given that an 80's TV sci-fi scriptwriter can get it right"

> They didn't have the biggest reseller of the planet telling them how a computer system should sell, ehm, work...

I used to think that Sirius Cybernetics Corporation was a description of MS, but these days it's clear that all of them want us to stick our heads in a pig.

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Anonymous Coward

Distance selling legislation for starters.

Yes, at the moment.

Bonfire of the red tape is on the way once the EU's not there to look after UK consumer interests.

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Headmaster

Ahem: Blakes 7 fanboi here.

Zen *never* asked "confirm".

Zen said "Confirmed" when given an order. It *never* asked for confirmation.

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Re: @ Lee D

Why am I now imagining Compo from "Last of the Summer Wine" walking up to one of these things and saying "ey'oop Google !" ?

There were few characters played with anything like the right accent. Compo wasn't one of them.

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Re: "CONFIRM"

"Isn't a chimp some kind of monkey?"

No.

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"But the more powerful systems get, the less usable VR seems to get. They also seem to get more stupid in many cases."

I think that's primarily because they've switched from recognising a few specific commands to attempting to recognise entire "natural language" sentences with little to no word gaps. It's a massive leap in complexity but is being treated like it's just a step upgrade. My Garmin SatNav recognises pretty much all of the spoken commands I give it apart from the word "up" when navigating a list. (A US style nasel "app" sound seems to work about 75% of the time) but often has some difficulty if I try to set a destination by speaking the address. It works a little better if I speak with distinct gaps between the words but does seem to have a few americanisms left in it. For examples, here in the UK we would normally give an address as One Eight Six Acacia Avenue, Anytown but the Garmin seems to prefer One Hundred Eighty SIx, Acacia Avenue, Anytown. Note the missing "and" between 100 and 80 that a Brit would normally use.

Likewise, the text to speech seems to use the US style of "I don't know that word so follow these pronunciation rules for a best guess" rather than the UK rules you'd expect of a product marketed in the UK.

I've not heard it say "wor-sester-shire" yet but Campbell comes out as Camp-Bell.

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"half of the nearest supermarkets are the other side of the Thames Estuary apparently"

Also live by the side of a river, the nearest crossings being 2 miles down river or 3 miles up river. And without fail, EVERY system I've ever used to locate the "nearest" $something will not take the river into account. It's pure line of sight. Even my SatNav, although the SatNav does actually direct me to the tunnel or bridge when actually planning a route.

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Unhappy

Late in coming?

"1984 is a little late in coming."

I think not ...

It's been here and all around us for quite a few years now.

But we've been so distracted by all the hype and BS that when it arrived we didn't notice.

And now it's too late.

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That's easy, you should have two language settings - one for English, one for American.

Why not? They are in reality rather different versions of English, sufficiently so that RDBMSes have to have options for them. Years ago we had to stop DBAs from setting the language for our software to British on SQL Server, which promptly stopped our (International) date format from working.

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Amazon want you to spend money, the whole point of these systems is to make that easier. Just like one-click purchases years ago, they want to make impulse purchases more likely.

That's no reason not to get the system to read back what's being ordered and ask for confirmation. The confirmation would still be in the "impulse" time-frame so those "hey, that's neat!" purchases would still go through, and only the genuine mistakes would be stopped.

Amazon can't really want to bear the cost of handling the returns of all the good ordered by mistake, can they?

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Well, both iOS 10.2 and OSX Sierra have made remarkable improvements to Siri. It clearly recognises every word that I say and does actually work, which is something I gave up on a Mac some time ago.

"what's the closing time of nearest supermarket?"

Siri "I have found x number of supermarkets close to your location please select one" and then "this supermarket closes today at XX:XX"

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Terminator

We need a project...

Call it "Icarus", for obvious reasons, and just give the AI access to everything (within reason, give it a mouse and keyboard and it has to move them mechanically, so as to limit it's input/output reasonably)...

Teach it via imitation/reward etc. Our current systems must at least be able to give us an "interesting" result, though I assume it will go the way of every AI claim, and just turn out to be a learning algorithm...

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Joke

It worked in trek so it must be fine. ...

Computer lower the light level 20% and play some some music. ... no not that, Vash is coming for dinner.... ahhh that's better.

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I have a voice print recognition to authenticate me on my bank's IVR system. It's been there for several years now.

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Anonymous Coward

"I have a voice print recognition to authenticate me on my bank's IVR system. It's been there for several years now."

Right, but voiceprint recognition and "speech to text" don't have a huge amount in common once you start looking in detail. They are different things for different purposes - voiceprints analyse invariant characteristics of the speaker being recognised, sometimes regardless of the words, and speaker-independent speech to text tries to do something quite different - the words are very important, the speaker's identity less so.

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Mushroom

stupid postcodes

that is because of the stupidity of insisting on using postcodes for all location - it's not like the legal location system is illegal or something - National Grid Referances (NGR) are vastly superior; easy to use; and as acurate as you need. Postcode locations always assume that adjoing postcodes are actually mutually acccesable not across a river; the wrong side of the mountain or even in one of the other home nations.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ Lee D

How do, Google?

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VoiceLaziness is a stupid idea.

Fixed that for you.

The problem isn't the means of communication, it's the bypassing important steps like "reviewing the results" and "verifying your credit card information".

If your computer is set up so that it can spend your money without you being there, then you have a problem far larger than voice activation.

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Re: @ Lee D

Ah, you're the guy who won't be able to jaunt…

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Re: "CONFIRM"

Did you just call The Librarian a chimp? Gods, you're for it now!

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It still wouldn't past the toddler test

Anybody who watched Blake's 7 knows that voice activated computers ought to

1) Confirm their activation word with a chime or a very irascible "yes?"

2) Ask "Confirm?" after being given an order.

Given that an 80's TV sci-fi scriptwriter can get it right, it's a little sad that Google, Amazon et al. can't quite manage to get there.

To which said toddler replies 'yes'

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Trollface

You're not trying hard enough if you stop with only 1 condition affecting you!

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Devil

Using any internet remote (cloud) server voice recognition is really stupid because it is a corporate spy and is ridiculously insecure if it does not have unique confirmation phrases to stop unauthorised actions e.g. by children, visitors, and broadcast/recorded audio.

I have disabled voice recognition on Android and Windows 10 because I regard it as a dangerous attack surface!

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" the words are very important, the speaker's identity less so."

Not when it's going to be billing me. It better fucking make sure that I am the one saying the words to do so.

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Re: "Given that an 80's TV sci-fi scriptwriter can get it right"

David Cameron must have mis-heard them.

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Not that worried about the always listening part myself in terms of being hacked....

Since a mobile phone/laptop could easily be hijacked and used for the same purpose

I would like any digital assistant to be based on my own servers though, prefably at home, behind a firewall....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You are wrong on "cannot distinguish users"... You never had a parrot then?

my grandfather spent two months with us while dying of lung cancer and the bird adding his cough to the medley.

Parrot intelligence is similar to cat intelligence in its disdain for other lifeforms - except that the parrot is also both smarter and more devious than the cat. The parrot beak is basically engineered for removing keys from remotes and keyboards.

Thus the parrot is the more effective evil, amongst pets.

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Re: "CONFIRM"

Isn't a chimp some kind of monkey?

NO!

It's an Ape, as is the Librarian.

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Great. So in addition to the USA imposing its spelling and grammar on the rest of the world, it's now imposing its prhasing and meanings, too.

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Re: @ Lee D

"find speaking slowly and loudly works (pretend you're on holiday in Spain)"

What's the point in speaking to the Google app in Spanish? ;-)

.. when In Spain my slow / clear speaking attempts are in the vain hope of getting my (quite dismal) Spanish understood

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Re: Blakes 7 and Microsoft

Was it ever explicitly stated that Avon and Callie were involved together? There were hints and there was line of Villa's with "Did I miss something" and I think Callie or Jenna replied "yes, you missed something. which I thought was about Avon and Callie. I was too young to watch it when it came out, I think, but maybe they re-ran it. It might have been my first introduction to Sci-Fi.

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Trollface

Re: You are wrong on "cannot distinguish users"... You never had a parrot then?

"The since deceased parrot"

and now I'm thinking of the parrot being nailed to his perch... pining for the Fjords?

I suppose Alexa could be trained to order crackers...

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@Ian Mason

But then again, there's HAL.

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Alien

Re: "CONFIRM"

Perhaps, like the Minds in the Culture universe, the assistants should choose their own names.

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Making impulse purchases more likely = good.

Making chargebacks and lawsuits more likely = less good.

Losing their PCI compliance = much less good.

The complaint here is not that Alexa makes it easy for you to spend money. It is that Alexa makes it easy for someone else to spend your money. That's not actually legal and if it becomes a running joke that Alexa fails in this way then eventually Amazon are going to lose in court. I don't know what the PCI rules are, but I would hope that creating a system where anyone within earshot of Alexa can use your credit card is in breach of those rules and presumably Amazon becomes a lot less profitable if they have to start using PayPal to process payments (because their own system is no longer allowed to operate).

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Re: Blakes 7 and Microsoft

Was it ever explicitly stated that Avon and Callie were involved together?

I don't recall such.

It would be well worth your time to watch it again I beleive. Some of the SFX are, well, low-budget 1980's BBC, but the plotlines and some of the other SFX are fairly decent.

IIRC the BBC did release it on DVD, which promptly made its way to various online sources..

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Re: OK Google, what's the closing time of nearest supermarket?

I once asked an American waitress for "another beer please" and was given an empty plate...

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Re: "CONFIRM"

"Did you just call The Librarian a chimp? Gods, you're for it now!"

I don't think so. At least a chimp is another ape. He'd probably just correct you with a, "Ook. ook." It's the M-word he hates.

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Joke

All we need now is...

"Alexa, please self destruct"

I suspect that others will have other things that Alexa can't do (to itself) that humans can't do either.

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Re: All we need now is...

"Siri, go to sleep" works

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PM.
Terminator

Re: All we need now is...

"Sorry, I can't do that , Dave"

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Can't believe the writer forgot the Great Furby Radio Massacre when a DJ asked kids to put their Furbies to the radio to talk to each other and they all died.

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Yeah, but wasn't that actually bollocks in the end? Given that furbies use IR to communicate it seems unlikley that this really happened.

I accept that the newer ones use bluetooth - but that still doesnt explain why proximity to a radio would kill them.

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"but that still doesnt explain why proximity to a radio would kill them."

It's a radio. And it's on, ie "active". Join the dots! Call a lawyer. Profit!

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