With an unbelievably large number of voice commands and skills available to use, Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo devices are beginning to have problems thanks to its name. Amazon gave its virtual assistant a human-like name to bolster adoption rates and make it more user-friendly. However, because the name of the device is used to get its "attention" by default – and because similar names are not uncommonly found to be attached to real people – some problems have apparently been occurring as a result.
Due to the name being similar to people's real names it shouldn't be too surprising that reports have arisen of Amazon's voice assistant devices causing some conflict and confusion, given that Amazon reports having sold several million of devices. Asking a friend or relative a question by name, when that friend happens to be among those hundreds of thousands sharing a similar name to the device, has reportedly resulted in responses from the device. What may be somewhat surprising is that problems caused by people who are physically present are not the only ones being reported. There are also reports that Amazon's own commercials, playing on televisions near an Alexa device, are triggering the device. In several cases, television shows beyond that have also caused the devices to activate and – in some few cases – proceed to attempt making orders on Amazon. In one instance, a character on a tv show told his daughter to order milk and the Alexa-powered device processed the request. Thankfully, Alexa devices require confirmation before completely placing an order and its owner was able to put a halt to the order.
While many of the reports can be written off by the affected users as something to be laughed about, this does present Amazon with a somewhat serious challenge to overcome. This is especially true since device sales have been and are expected to continue picking up. Simply put, a device intended to bring conveniences to customers should not be causing inconveniences or headaches for its users. Amazon is aware that the problem is happening and has reportedly decided to at least change how it does its own commercials as a starting point. In the meantime, the device does have an option to change the word used to wake it up. Unfortunately, that may be the only solution for those fortunate enough to have had their name usurped by their voice-activated assistant.