Amazon had some apologizing to do after the brand’s Alexa digital home assistant told a 10-year-old girl to stick metal into a live wall outlet.
Kristin Livdahl said that she and her daughter had been participating in kid friendly physical challenges “like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot,” while they were stuck inside their home on Sunday due to bad weather.
She added that her daughter “just wanted another one,” and asked their Amazon Echo device to “tell me a challenge to do.” Instead of a light-hearted test, Alexa responded with a dangerous dare.
“Here’s something I found on the web,” Alexa responded. “According to ourcomunitynow.com: The challenge is simple: plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”
Livdahl said she screamed in horror at the device: “No, Alexa, no!” She posted a screenshot of the challenge Amazon’s assistant suggested to her child on Twitter, along with the caption, “OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said.”
Had Livdahl not intervened, her daughter could have been seriously injured or killed, as metal is a conductor of electricity and domestic wall outlets in the United States supply 120 volts, which is enough to be fatal to a child.
The device’s challenge was not a result of malicious malware, or a machine uprising. The smart speaker is only actually as intelligent as the internet, which at times is pretty dumb.
The challenge was scraped from ourcommunitynews.com, which described the “Outlet Challenge,” a ridiculous game that gained popularity with teens on social media last year.
Amazon apologized for the glaring error a day later, when their Help account discovered Livdahl’s tweet and sent a direct link to troubleshoot the device.
“Customer trust is at the center of everything we do and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers. As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it,” an Amazon spokesperson said.