South Park is pranking your Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo and Google Home are perpetually eavesdropping – it’s the only way it can work as an always-on service. There are quite philosophical problems you can have with this concept, but also quite practical ones: the TV can wake up your device and instruct it to do things remotely. Sometimes this is accidental – like when a news report made Echos order dollhouses all over San Diego – and sometimes it’s intentional – like when Burger King outsourced their advertising to Google Home, with non-PR-friendly results.
The latest episode of South Park is in the tradition of the latter. Deliberately triggering people’s Amazon Echo devices as part of the show. In an act of product placement that Amazon may not be entirely happy with, Cartman chats to his new device in a way that’s designed to trigger people’s devices in their living room. This, captured by Moritz Wittmann, is the result:
My colleague Vaughn was watching the show himself, and said that the episode also attempted to trigger Google Home, but his device wasn’t activated by it, thanks to being locked to his voice. This isn’t something that can be done with the Echo, although you can change the wake word to “Amazon” or “Computer” – handy if you happen to be Canadian snowboarder Alexa Loo. In fact, there was a whole bit looking to trip up users of Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri:
For those that hadn’t made the switch, though, Comedy Central had successfully pranked your virtual assistant – as Wittmann’s Alexa-powered shopping list proved:
Those tuning in without Amazon Echos will have missed a good few Easter Eggs, then. Probably not enough to convince them to welcome Alexa into their homes, but a nice reminder that virtual assistants hear everything – and that may well have long-term repercussions.