‘Kill your foster parents’ Alexa urges user in creepy manner

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New Delhi | Updated: December 27, 2018 7:01:30 PM

Blurting out “Kill your foster parents” is not the only offending remark the voice assistant has made. It is unsettling the way Amazon is seemingly pushing Alexa to communicate better

When you are used to getting your work done through voice commands to the very dependable Alexa, it is a shock to hear when it suddenly blabs, “Kill your foster parents.”

According to a report by Reuters, Amazon, in its bid to get Alexa “to mimic human banter” it is making the voice assistant talk about everything under the sun. However, the company would also like to ensure that Alexa does not end up displeasing its users. Blurting out “Kill your foster parents” is not the only offending remark the voice assistant has made.

Alexa also talked about sex acts with users and, surprisingly, discussed dog defecation as well. A hack which exposed some customer’s data also took place this summer was also detected by Amazon, which traced it to China, the report added.

It is unsettling the way Amazon is seemingly pushing Alexa to communicate better, however, the company has rather no choice but to perform better and stay ahead of its rivals – the Google Assistant from Alphabet and the Siri from Apple are increasingly catching up with Amazon Alexa.

Many people are now used to giving voice commands to Amazon’s Echo speakers and getting their work done such as weather reports, ordering food, reminders, playing their favourite song, to-do lists and whatnot. About two-thirds of US smart-speaker customers use Amazon’s Echo devices, according to eMarketer, a research firm, the report mentioned.

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And the company does not seem to mind either. It is all for pushing the limits – even treating customers as guinea pigs. In 2016, the annual Alexa Prize was launched wherein computer science students were asked to form teams and work on improving the assistant’s conversational skills by creating chatbots; the prize money was set at $500,000. And, regular users could participate in the test by talking to these chatbots, further opening a can of worms.

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