Some kids who get bored sometimes ask their smart speakers’ digital assistants for suggested games or activities. Those who own Alexa-powered devices get a lot of “Alexa, what should I do?” kinds of questions. However, one 10-year-old kid got a weird and dangerous suggestion: touch a coin to the prongs of a plug half-inserted into a wall socket. Fortunately, the mother was listening and the kid was smart but this response understandably raised alarms. Amazon immediately responded and fixed the “error”.
BBC News reported on the incident which the mother of the child posted on Twitter. She said that they were experiencing bad weather and to keep her daughter active, they were doing some physical challenges. When she asked Alexa for more suggestions, the digital assistant said this specifically: “Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs,” which of course, as we all know, is highly dangerous.
This isn’t some random thing that a suddenly sentient and psychotic digital assistant was suggesting. The so-called “penny challenge” became trending on TikTok and other social media websites last year and those who don’t know better thought it was a fun and dangerous thing to try out. But of course, this kind of thing can make people lose fingers and even hands and arms. Fire officials in the U.S have in fact spoken out against this as people can get seriously hurt.
Amazon immediately responded and said that they were updating the Alexa software to prevent a suggestion like this from happening again. Alexa apparently found this on the web so they would need to fix the AI and algorithm so it will not suggest something that may be dangerous especially to little kids. Amazon assured users that when they became aware of the “error”, they “took swift action to fix it.”
It’s a good thing that the kid in the incident was “too smart to do something like that” as tweeted by her mother. Imagine what would have happened if a parent wasn’t listening and if the kid was a bit younger and didn’t know much about conduction and electricity.