As an increasing number of smart speakers make their way into homes, more concerns are being raised about the devices' “always listening” capabilities. But it seems the feature could have potentially saved a life by alerting authorities to an incident of domestic violence.
According to ABC News, Eduardo Barros was house-sitting with his girlfriend and her daughter at a residence in Tijeras, New Mexico when the couple got into an argument that turned violent. He allegedly drew a firearm and threatened to kill his partner, but a phrase that was misheard by the smart speaker could have averted a tragedy.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Department spokesperson Deputy Felicia Romero says that when Barros asked “did you call the sheriffs?” the device interpreted this as a command to call 911. The operator heard what was happening in the background and sent law enforcement teams to the residence. Following many hours of negotiations, Barros was taken into custody.
While Barros’s girlfriend was injured, she did not require a visit to the hospital. Her daughter was unharmed. “The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life,” Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said in a statement.
It still isn’t clear which brand of home speaker called the emergency services. And as Barros was house-sitting at the time, there’s a chance he might not have known it was even there. But this is definitely an instance where the AI mistaking conversations for a voice command was a good thing.
Barros is facing charges of possession of a firearm or destructive device by a felon, aggravated battery against a household member, aggravated assault against a household member, and false imprisonment.
Back in March, a defendant in a murder case gave police permission to search the audio recordings on his Amazon Echo after the tech giant initially refused to hand it over.