Amazon Echo, home alone with NPR on, got confused and hijacked a thermostat

Amazon’s expanded Echo lineup.
Amazon’s expanded Echo lineup.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Next time you listen to NPR, you might want to turn off your Amazon Echo.

Earlier this month, NPR’s Weekend Edition ran a story on its Listen Up segment about Amazon Echo and how the voice-activated assistant was helping customers extend the power of the internet into their homes.

But, ironically, the radio program triggered Amazon Echos in the homes of a few listeners.

The show’s host, Rachel Martin, explained in an update on the story:

Listener Roy Hagar wrote in to say our story prompted his Alexa to reset his thermostat to 70 degrees. It was difficult for Jeff Finan to hear the story because his radio was right next to his Echo speaker, and when Alexa heard her name, she started playing an NPR News summary. Marc-Paul Lee said his unit started going crazy too and wrote in to tell us this – let’s just say we both enjoyed the story. So Alexa, listen up – we want you to pledge to your local member station. You hear me? Lots and lots of money. Did you get that, Alexa?

Random things, like TV programs, have a tendency to set off Echo’s voice functions. It seems like it’s something that Amazon customer support knows about—and it annoys them too.

Yet the new internet-enabled speaker has stuck a chord with techie consumers, and is making its way into the mainstream. Echo added API integration so owners can call an Uber or activate their Spotify playlists by just commanding their device. Amazon also announced two new Echo models—the Tap, a portable Bluetooth speaker, and the Dot, which lets you add Echo’s voice-activation technology to your old speakers.

This post was updated to note that Listen Up is a segment of Weekend Edition.