This story started earlier today when I got a notification from Amazon’s mobile app that my order of a Lost in Translation DVD had been sent out for delivery.
It’s a wonderful film, but I hadn’t ordered a copy. Indeed, I already own it on DVD. I was confused, and a little worried. Was it fat fingers in the Amazon app that had led to a purchase? Had I accidentally clicked a one-click purchase online somehow?
I went into my email, and found an email from Amazon dated at 4.13am. It confirmed my order!
Now, I should confess that the previous evening I’d gone for a couple of drinks with friends, but I hadn’t gone to bed that late, and I certainly hadn’t got up in the middle of the night to order a film that I already own. As a rule, I don’t wake in the small hours and make random DVD purchases.
I couldn’t tell from the email or from my Amazon order history, through what means the DVD had been ordered. But I began to wonder if it had somehow been ordered via Alexa. I’ve heard of other people “accidentally” ordering stuff that way. But that’s never happened to me.
So I opened the Alexa app to see my recent history. And then things got really crazy.
I use Alexa a reasonable amount, but the previous evening I’d got in late, and left early the following morning. On neither occasion had I really used Alexa.
But my Alexa history showed a lot of interaction since the last time I remembered using it to listen the radio the previous morning.
Amongst other things, it seemed I’d asked:
- Alexa to introduce her/it-self
- What is bluetooth?
- How do you get along with Siri?
- What the weather is
- To buy an Amazon Echo Dot (this didn’t go through fortunately)
- Are you sexy vehicle costume? (Nope?)
- What is five plus eleven?
- What is pi to the dress? (No idea)
- Do you think I’m handsome? (Er…)
- What is the weather? (Again, it seems)
- What the New York Knicks score was? (I’m not especially interested in either them or the NBA in general)
- To play Drake? (I don’t especially like Drake)
- To play Grace? (I don’t know who this is, but Amazon does)
- Tell me a joke
- Set a timer for one minute
- Would you like to go on a date with me? (“She” is an inanimate object)
- Where can I hide the body? (Worrying)
- Do you know Siri?
- What is the weather? (I’m clearly very interested in this)
- Tell me a joke
- Trending story
- Riley party (Absolutely no clue)
- Convert cups in grams
- Set a timer for one hour (I assume the one minute timer finished)
- Play You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi
- Okay Google (That’s not going to work on Alexa)
- Order “Lost in Translation” on DVD (This went through, and I got a confirmation email at 4.13am!)
- What is an Xbox on?
- Add milk and eggs to my shopping list (I’m OK for both thanks)
- Play Dire Straits
Now I was worried. The Alexa app doesn’t time-stamp these queries that I can see. But clearly this activity had happened in the middle of the night based on that Lost in Translation order.
I was confused.
Had another Alexa ended up on my Amazon account? Was some neighbour asking stupid questions through my letterbox? (I don’t have a letterbox, and the only children in my block are very young and unlikely to be playing around in the middle of the night.)
This was actually a bit disturbing.
And then I remembered that I had started a YouTube video on my TV before I fell asleep. I’m a heavy sleeper, and can fall asleep to background audio. But the TV would have been turned down.
I consulted my YouTube history.
I had been watching a video about the Raspberry Pi.
Yes, I know. At night, after a few drinks. I’m a nerd. What can I say.
But YouTube autoplays more videos when one has finished, and here’s a list of the following videos “I” streamed. I think this explains the otherwise unfathomable behaviour:
- Echo Dot Impressions
- Amazon Echo Dot: A week with review
- Google or Amazon? Which is better? (Meaning Alexa or Google Home)
- Google Home vs Amazon Echo – Which is Best?
- Why you should buy Google Home over Amazon Echo vs Siri and Sonos
- 4 things Google Home can do to beat Amazon Echo in 2017
- Google home adds 70 new features
- Google Home hacks for the smart home
- Home automation: a beginner’s introduction
- Google Home and App Setup + IFTTT Guide
- If This Then That (IFTTT) Tutorial
Basically I “watched” a lot of videos about Alexa and Google Home, and my Echo tried to respond to various audio cues that came from these!
The DVD I didn’t want only cost £2.90 and I’ve tried to cancel it online. But it won’t be the end of the world if I end up with a second copy. I’ve learnt my lesson and disabled voice purchasing in the app.
The moral of this tale?
Don’t leave Alexa or Google Home alone with YouTube tech videos reviewing what Alexa and Google Home are capable of.