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Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker is the most popular smart speaker in the world. There are several models available and it entices most people with its low price and smart capabilities. Experts have questioned the low price of the smart speaker in the past. Amazon’s business model with other devices is to sell the device at a loss and make a profit from selling the content to the consumer later. With Alexa speakers there is no clear idea of what that content is, this has led many to believe that it is people’s data that Amazon wants from Alexa. While Alexa controls people’s homes, music and answers questions, it is also always learning. This data is then used to improve all Alexa speakers around the world.

It is an ongoing joke that Alexa listens to everything but one family found it to actually be true. They were having a conversation in the same room as Alexa and they say that they did not ask Alexa a question or activate it in any way. However, Alexa listened to their conversation about hardwood floors and recorded it. Alexa then sent the recording to one of their friends from their address book.

Their friend was startled and told them that Alexa had recorded the conversation secretly and sent it. The family didn’t believe the friend but he could tell them the details of their hardwood floor conversation. The family insisted that they did not talk to Alexa or tell it to start recording. They say that they definitely didn’t ask Alexa to send anything either.

Amazon claims that Alexa heard something in the conversation that sounded like it’s name, which triggers Alexa to begin listening. They also say that the family must not have heard Alexa respond to them. Alexa then heard something else in the conversation which sounded like “send message” so Alexa prepared a recording. Amazon says that Alexa then asked to confirm the send message request and the contact and heard something which sounded like “right”.

However it seems as though the family doesn’t quite believe Amazon’s explanation. They are certain that Alexa never spoke and that they didn’t trigger it. The family then decided to remove the Alexa speakers from every room in their house after being frightened by these events.

Difficult words

Entice: To attract or tempt someone.

Capabilities: The powers or abilities something has.

Consumer: A person who buys a product.

Ongoing: Something that is continuing.

Activate: To start or make something active.

Startle: A sudden shock.

Insist: To demand or strongly say something should happen.

Trigger: To cause or activate something else to happen.

Prepare: To make something ready for use.

Explanation: A statement that makes something clearer.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English: Coming Soon!

American English:

Match the Synonym!

1. Entice A. Powers
2. Capabilities B. Start
3. Ongoing C. Demand
4. Activate D. Attract
5. Startle E. Buyer
6. Insist F. Surprise
7. Consumer G. Continuing
8. Prepare H. Clarification
9. Explanation I.  Make ready

True or False?

1.  Alexa is one of the smartest people in the world. T / F

2. The Alexa speaker attracts people with its low price. T / F

3. The low prices have made some people doubt the quality of Alexa. T / F

4.  Amazon does not usually make money from content. T / F

5. Alexa cannot learn more than it’s already programmed for. T / F

6. People joke that Alexa listens to everything. T / F

7.  The family had their conversation in a different room than Alexa. T / F

8.  The conversation was about hardwood doors. T / F

9.  The family says they didn’t ask Alexa to send anything. T / F

10.  The family removed all but one Alexa speaker from their home. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. the / questioned / have / price / low / smart / of / speaker / the / Experts

2. This / all / is / improve / then / Alexa / speakers / used / to / data

3. in / were / same / They / conversation / the / having / a / room

4. one / then / of / recording / to / the / sent / their / Alexa / friends

5. they / did / talk / The / family / insisted / Alexa / to / not / that

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English: Coming Soon!

American English:

Idea Loss Hardwood
Activate Remove  Available
Actually  Sounded  Conversation

Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker is the most popular smart speaker in the world. There are several models _________________ and it entices most people with its low price and smart capabilities. Experts have questioned the low price of the smart speaker in the past. Amazon’s business model with other devices is to sell the device at a _________ and make a profit from selling the content to the consumer later. With Alexa speakers there is no clear __________ of what that content is, this has led many to believe that it is people’s data that Amazon wants from Alexa. While Alexa controls people’s homes, music and answers questions, it is also always learning. This data is then used to improve all Alexa speakers around the world.

It is an ongoing joke that Alexa listens to everything but one family found it to ____________ be true. They were having a conversation in the same room as Alexa and they say that they did not ask Alexa a question or _____________ it in any way. However, Alexa listened to their conversation about hardwood floors and recorded it. Alexa then sent the recording to one of their friends from their address book.

Their friend was startled and told them that Alexa had recorded the conversation secretly and sent it. The family didn’t believe the friend but he could tell them the details of their ______________ floor conversation. The family insisted that they did not talk to Alexa or tell it to start recording. They say that they definitely didn’t ask Alexa to send anything either.

Amazon claims that Alexa heard something in the ________________ that sounded like it’s name, which triggers Alexa to begin listening. They also say that the family must not have heard Alexa respond to them. Alexa then heard something else in the conversation which _____________ like “send message” so Alexa prepared a recording. Amazon says that Alexa then asked to confirm the send message request and the contact and heard something which sounded like “right”.

However it seems as though the family doesn’t quite believe Amazon’s explanation. They are certain that Alexa never spoke and that they didn’t trigger it. The family then decided to ____________ the Alexa speakers from every room in their house after being frightened by these events.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. Do you own any smart speakers?
4. How often do you use the smart assistant on your phone or tablet?
5. Will smart assistants like Alexa be more common in the future?
6. Do you trust your private data with companies like Amazon, Google or Facebook?
7. Do you think Alexa speakers are always listening?
8. Do you have or want to have a smart home?
9. What benefits are there to having a smart speaker in every room of your house?
10. Would you rather pay more for a product and have your data remain private or have a product for free and the company uses your data to advertise to you?
11. Do you use Amazon to buy things online?
12. What do you know about Amazon?
13. Is there a similar site to Amazon in your country that is popular?
14. Do you prefer to shop online or in a store?
15. Is there anything that you would never buy online?
16. Is there something that your phone can’t do but you would like it to?
17. Do you think technology is making people lazy?
18. What do you think is the most useful piece of technology from the last 10 years?
19. What would you have done if this had happened to you?
20.  Do you think the family overreacted by removing all of their Alexa speakers from their home?