Amazon has updated its Alexa voice assistant after one of its devices “challenged” a 10-year-old girl to put a penny into the prongs of a half-inserted plug.
BBC.com reports the girl asked her family’s Alexa Echo Dot for a “challenge to do,” with the virtual voice assistant speaker responding, “Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs,” as shown in a screengrab of the device’s activity shared by the child’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, on her Twitter account.
“OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said,” Livdahl tweeted with the screengrab.”
“We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier. Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one,” Livdahl added in response to a Twitter user asking why the device suggested such a daring challenge.
The Echo speaker suggested Livdahl’s daughter participate in “the penny challenge,” which went viral on TikTok and other social media apps about a year ago and came up on the device after it was “found on the web.”
Many metals conduct electricity and putting them inside live electrical sockets could lead to shocks, fires and other significant damages, so the popularity of the “challenge” caused great concern.
“I know you can lose fingers, hands, arms,” Michael Clusker, station manager at Carlisle East fire station, told the Press newspaper in 2020. “The outcome from this is that someone will get seriously hurt.”
Amazon confirmed it has since updated Alexa once it became aware of the error.
“Customer trust is at the centre of everything we do and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers,” the company said in a statement to the BBC.
“As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it.”