Thousands of people plugging in new smart speakers on Christmas Day were greeted by a less than smart response after Amazon’s voice-controlled virtual assistant Alexa crashed.
Servers controlling the digital butler were overloaded with questions and requests, prompting Alexa to tell some users: “Sorry, I’m having trouble understanding you right now.”
The crash, at about 10am Irish time, prompted Amazon customers to complain about not being able to play festive songs, turn on their living room lights or get cooking instructions for Christmas dinner.
Richard Hyland tweeted: “Good day for Amazon’s Alexa to crash. It’s not like people might want to register new devices or play music or anything.”
Alexa works by sending voice commands via an Amazon Echo device to a server, where a computer interprets them. Instructions then go back to the Echo and the gadget plays music, reads the weather and performs tasks such as turning the lights on.
At about lunchtime, Amazon’s customer service account tweeted “some Echo devices in Europe have had intermittent connections” over the previous two hours. It said the issues had since been resolved.
Alexa sparked controversy last week following reports that a customer was told by Alexa to “kill your foster parents”. The user, who heard the message on his Echo device, wrote a review on Amazon’s website calling Alexa’s words “a whole new level of creepy”.
An investigation discovered that the bot had quoted from the social media site Reddit, known for its harsh and sometimes abusive content. – Guardian