Smart speaker’s remarks, apparently quoted from Reddit, come as Amazon tries to boost speaker’s conversational capacity
'An Amazon customer got a grim message last year from Alexa, the virtual assistant in the company’s smart speaker device: “Kill your foster parents.”
The user who heard the message from his Echo device wrote a harsh review on Amazon’s website, Reuters reported - calling Alexa’s utterance “a whole new level of creepy”.
An investigation found the bot had quoted from the social media site Reddit, known for harsh and sometimes abusive messages, people familiar with the investigation told Reuters.
The odd command is one of many hiccups that have happened as Amazon tries to train its machine to act something like a human, engaging in casual conversations in response to its owner’s questions or comments.
The research is helping Alexa mimic human banter and talk about almost anything she finds on the internet. But making sure she keeps it clean and inoffensive has been a challenge.
Alexa gets its conversational skills through machine learning, the most popular form of artificial intelligence. It uses computer programs to transcribe human speech, and then guess the best response based on patterns of observation.
Amazon has given Alexa a script to respond to more popular questions – like “what is the meaning of life?” – usually written by human editors. But responding to more obscure queries can be tricky for the virtual assistant.'
Read more: Alexa's advice to 'kill your foster parents' fuels concern over Amazon Echo