Parrot activates Alexa when mimicking owner, places online shopping order

By midian182 · 10 replies
Sep 21, 2017
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  1. Thanks to their always-listening functionality, there have been incidents where smart voice assistants such as Alexa are accidentally activated. But this latest instance is a bit different; it involves a family pet making an online shopping order.

    Londoner Corinne Pretorius imagined the £10 (around $13.50) order for gift boxes that arrived at her home might have come from her husband Jan or eight-year-old son Jaden, but neither of them was responsible. It turned out that her African Grey Parrot Buddy was the one who placed the order.

    It seems Buddy often mimics Pretorius’ voice and activated the speaker by saying “Alexa.” Amazing, he also managed to place an Amazon order for the golden gift boxes.

    "I couldn't believe it when I realized that it was Buddy who had used Alexa to make an Amazon order," Pretorius told the Mirror. "None of us even knew how to use her for that."

    "We've had the Echo for about four months, and I use it to play music or make to-do lists, but I've never ordered anything online.”

    "On Sunday we had popped out of the house for a couple of hours, but when I came home, I could hear Buddy talking but couldn't quite make out what he was saying," she said. "Then I heard Alexa say 'sorry I didn't quite get that.' Buddy then said, 'Alexa' and some gibberish, and she replied, 'What is it you want to order?'"

    It was only when the 39-year-old received a notification of an Amazon order being placed that she started to realize what had happened.

    "I hadn't ordered anything and couldn't figure out what had been ordered," she said. "I asked my husband and my son who didn't know what I was talking about so then I asked Alexa: 'What was my last order?' and she said it was these golden gift boxes. I laughed out loud because I knew then and there that it must have been Buddy."

    Amazon says that anyone making a voice purchase using Alexa must first confirm the order with a "yes" response. The company added that users could turn off voice shopping, or require confirmation codes be entered after each order is placed.

    At the start of the year, a six-year-old Texan girl ordered a $170 doll house and four-pounds worth of cookies using an Amazon Dot. When reporting the story, a TV anchor said: “I love the little girl saying, ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.'” This statement caused complaints from some viewers, who said their smart speakers were activated and tried to make purchases when they heard the command. Amazon said at the time that it’s “nearly impossible to voice shop by accident,” unless you’re a parrot, it seems.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Cubi Dorf

    Cubi Dorf TS Member Posts: 54   +21

    Alexa, polly wants a cracker yes
    wiyosaya and Julio Franco like this.
  3. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,887   +1,270

    African Grey's are the smartest of the parrots and can have an IQ equivalent to a 5 year old. Results may vary. What I am getting at is that Buddy could eventually put 1 + 1 together and utilize "Alexa" for whatever Buddy wants.
  4. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,280

    I have a 25 year old African Grey and boy, is that one intelligent bird. He's not a pet, he's a member of the family. I don't even keep him in a cage and although he (Buddy) has one, he only uses it to eat and sleep. During the day he's outside in the garden holding court with all the other wild birds around... and is he a charmer, a real ladies man. The female pigeons and doves love him.
  5. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,280

    I loved this story. One nondescript avian out thinking, outwitting and fooling Amazons finest minds. Bezos should hire the bird, fire a lot of underperforming, overpaid staff and replace them with the parrot.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  6. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,875   +1,107

    That's pretty hilarious, but not surprising considering it's an African Grey.

    However, my Alexa/Echo kicks in every once in a while responding to dialogue from the TV. So far I haven't received any unwanted orders when that's happened, though. ;)
  7. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,098   +2,588

    Ahem ..... and yet ANOTHER reason I chucked the stupid thing in the garbage!
    wiyosaya likes this.
  8. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,740   +1,308

    This is hilarious. I wonder if it also tried to order crackers. ;)

    What is even more hilarious is this:
    Given that ordering without an access code or confirmation other than saying "yes" is on be default, this is the biggest load of bullpucky I have heard yet from crapAzon. crapAzon wants all the orders that it can get and does not care how it gets them so long as it gets them.
  9. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 586   +273

    TV and radio ads should capitalise on this. Maybe play order statements at a frequency that can't be heard but can be picked up by the smart devices?
  10. erickmendes

    erickmendes TS Evangelist Posts: 404   +168

    Careful, your car may order some new tires...
  11. KIPtheLIP

    KIPtheLIP TS Rookie

    I have a 4 year old African Grey and he mimics myself and my wife perfectly. I could definitely see this happening to us, no Alexa in our house thankfully lol

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