‘Kill your foster parents’ - Alexa
Millions of users of Amazon's Echo speakers have grown accustomed to the soothing strains of Alexa, the human-sounding virtual assistant that can tell them the weather, order takeout and handle other basic tasks in response to a voice command.
So a customer was shocked last year when Alexa blurted out: "Kill your foster parents."
The episodes, previously unreported, arise from Amazon.com Inc's strategy to make Alexa a better communicator. New research is helping Alexa mimic human banter and talk about almost anything she finds on the Internet. However, ensuring she does not offend users has been a challenge for the world's largest online retailer.
The company in 2016 launched the annual Alexa Prize, enlisting computer science students to improve the assistant's conversation skills. Teams vie for the US$500,000 (RM2.08mil) first prize by creating talking computer systems known as chatbots that allow Alexa to attempt more sophisticated discussions with people.
The project has been important to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who signed off on using the company's customers as guinea pigs, one of the people said. Amazon has been willing to accept the risk of public blunders to stress-test the technology in real life and move Alexa faster up the learning curve, the person said.
The university teams are helping Alexa have a wider range of conversations. Amazon customers have also given the bots better ratings this year than last, the company said.
But Alexa's gaffes are alienating others, and Bezos on occasion has ordered staff to shut down a bot, three people familiar with the matter said. The user who was told to whack his foster parents wrote a harsh review on Amazon's website.
Consumers might not realize that some of their most sensitive conversations are being recorded by Amazon's devices, information that could be highly prized by criminals, law enforcement, marketers and others. -Source_cnet.com