Ah, technology. Ain’t it grand? Just the other night, I asked my phone to look up directions to a movie theater, send a text and find a nearby restaurant, and poof! My little digital assistant, Siri, managed it all without a single hiccup. (It may text better than I do, frankly: I, in concert with my phone’s creative spellchecker, have been known to tell my wife that “I’ll be a little latte,” instead of “a little late.”)
But as helpful as they can be, these digital assistants, it would seem, are just as susceptible to entertainment and mass media as we are. Case in point: the dollhouses.
It began innocently and predictably enough. We’ve learned by now that, if you give children access to some sort of digital device connected to a credit card number, they’re liable to buy everything from a shiny new car to $1,400 worth of digital Smurfberries. So when one Dallas family brought home a new Amazon Echo, a device augmented by Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, the family’s 6-year-old girl decided to put Alexa to the test … by asking for a dollhouse and four pounds of sugar cookies.
Alexa, eager to please, promptly ordered the girl a KidKraft Sparkle Mansion dollhouse (on sale now at Amazon for $149.95) along with her sugar cookies. We can only presume that she’s still on a serious sugar high.
Cute story, right? The morning crew at San Diego’s CW6 News sure thought so. They reported it to their legion of morning viewers. “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,'” anchor Jim Patton said on air— innocent morning show patter.
But digital assistants don’t yet have a setting for “patter,” and in Echo-augmented homes all across the San Diego metro area, Alexa perked up its digital ears. Famed San Diego anchorman Jim Patton is here and in need of a dollhouse! several Alexas thought to themselves. I must order him one! Or perhaps several!
Thankfully (for everyone but the KidKraft Sparkle Mansion people), Alexa didn’t actually go through with any of these dollhouse purchases. Alexa needs a final go-ahead from the owner—or, at least, a nearby 6-year-old girl—to cue up the credit card. Still, experts say that it’s best to curb the purchasing power of Alexa and other digital assistants anyway. You can turn off the voice ordering option altogether if you like, or at the very least add a passcode to prevent Alexa from satisfying her own materialistic desires with your bank account.
Frankly, I’m a little worried about writing this blog so near my mobile phone. If Siri reads it, she might get some strange ideas.
Hey, where did this latte come from?