Dallas

Alexa device gets family in financial trouble

David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices, holds an Echo Dot while speaking in San Francisco in March.
David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices, holds an Echo Dot while speaking in San Francisco in March. AP archives

A North Texas family received a shipment they say they didn’t order, courtesy of artificial intelligence.

Megan Neitzel of Dallas told Fox News that the family’s new Amazon Echo Dot apparently misunderstood questions about cookies and a dollhouse to mean the family wanted to order them online.

The device is powered by Alexa, the retail giant’s artificial intelligence voice assistant.

Brooke Neitzel, Megan’s 6-year-old daughter, told her mom that she had asked Alexa about cookies and a dollhouse, Fox News reported. Soon after, Megan received an order confirmation email for a 4-pound tin of butter cookies and a $170 dollhouse.

The family is making the experience a learning opportunity, according to Fox News. They kept the cookies and decided to donate the dollhouse to a local charity. Megan Neitzel also activated a parental-control feature that requires a passcode to confirm purchases to avoid future misunderstandings with Alexa.

What Alexa may have heard or misheard has made other headlines recently.

An Arkansas prosecutor wants to investigate a man’s Echo for information relevant to a murder case, according to reports.

Also, in a moment captured on video, a toddler asks Alexa to play a children’s song, but the device responds with a string of crude words before adults can turn it off.

Mark David Smith: 817-390-7808, @MarkSmith_FWST

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