Amazon Echo virtual assistant 'hijacks thermostat' after mistaking radio report for owner's command

When a US radio show aired a segment on the ingenuity of Amazon's voice-activated personal assistant Echo, it really did demonstrate the device's talents for performing tasks on command.

By unwittingly making it carry out duties in the homes of several listeners.

At its owner's behest, the smart device can preheat the oven, turn up the heating and do all sorts of other chores when it hears the instruction 'Alexa'.

But it's apparently not quite smart enough to distinguish the sound of its master from the voices coming out of the radio.

So when presenters on NPR's Listen Up show started talking about 'Alexa', the device thought it was being given an order and dutifully sprung into life, according to some listeners.

Host Rachel Martin recounted: "Listener Roy Hagar wrote in to say our story prompted his Alexa to reset his thermostat to 70 degrees. It was difficult for Jeff Finan to hear the story because his radio was right next to his Echo speaker, and when Alex heard her name, she started playing an NPR News summary. Marc-Paul Lee said his unit started going crazy too and wrote in to tell us this - let's just say we both enjoyed the story.

"So Alexa, listen up - we want you to pledge to your local member station. You hear me? Lots and lots of money. Did you get that, Alexa?"

Echo is not the only smart device to mistakenly respond to a broadcaster. A TV ad to promote the voice activation feature of the XBox One, starring Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul, unwittingly switched on the console in owners' homes.

Search The Drum Jobs

Explore the best jobs in Marketing and Media industries
View all open jobs

Cameron Clarke

Cameron Clarke has been a journalist at The Drum for more than 10 years and is now its Deputy Editor. Based in the UK, he is primarily responsible for overseeing The Drum's coverage of the media industry and marketing agencies. His work includes long reads on Brewdog, Patagonia, De Correspondent and the future of sports rights. He was named Feature Writer of the Year at the 2017 PPA Scottish Magazine Awards.

All by Cameron