With the rise of smart speakers making their way into most homes across the globe, Amazon’s successful range has become the bane of some people’s existence. In a report published by the BBC, it highlighted that some parents of children called Alexa are challenging Amazon to change the name of their device, with it causing bullying and emotional distress. Some children (and some teachers) issue commands to the children as they would a smart assistant.
An Amazon spokesperson said to Tech Radar “We designed our voice assistant to reflect qualities we value in people – being smart, considerate, empathetic, and inclusive.
We’re saddened by the experiences you’ve shared, and want to be very clear: bullying of any kind is unacceptable, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. As an alternative to Alexa, we also offer several other wake words customers can choose from, including Echo, Computer, and Amazon. We value feedback from customers, and as with everything we do, we will continue to look for ways to offer them more choice in this area.”
Why is this an issue
You might be wondering what the issue is, but with widespread reports of bullying from children and adults alike, it is easy to see where the problems arise.
One of the key problems is that with the feminine-sounding AI devices, there is a perpetuation of the sexist stereotype that women are subservient. One UNESCO report said that it is worrying that assistants respond to blunt commands with no agency in their voices. They have to carry out commands, “regardless of tone or hostility”.
There are other wake words for Alexa, but this is not advertised and is likely to not happen as it will cause trouble for users who have gotten used to the name Alexa for their devices.
There are plenty of other names for Amazon to choose from, and as they just bought the James Bond franchise, you might see a Q or Moneypenny AI soon. It seems like now is a good time for a name change, so let’s see what is on the horizon for Smart Assistants soon!