If Amazon wants everyone to rely on its voice-activated smart assistant Alexa, today revealed that many, many people are doing exactly that; Alexa complaints lodged with the service Down Detector spiked massively on Friday morning (March 2).
It appears a regional outage that affected Amazon Web Services (AWS) caused the voice assistant to go temporarily silent. The irony was not lost on the media, which was quick to point out that Amazon had just run a Super Bowl ad in which Alexa lost her voice. Who would have guessed America’s eCommerce giant was prophetic?
Alexa responded to Echo and Echo Dot users with error messages such as, “Sorry, something went wrong,” whenever they asked her to complete a task — even one that would not seem to require internet connectivity, like turning on the lights.
The outages were not universal: It seems many, if not most, U.S. customers were shown the red ring of sadness when trying to interact with their home speakers on Friday, but those talking to Alexa north of the Canadian border had better luck.
Some customers were also able to find workarounds using the Alexa app on their smartphones — though at that point, it probably would have been easier just to get up and turn on the lights themselves.
Other applications that depend on AWS as a backbone, such as the workplace application Slack, also saw downtime on Friday.
For those without connectivity, it didn’t matter if they were using an Amazon Echo or a third-party device like the Sonos One; Alexa had nothing to say to any of them Friday morning. This variable suggests the problem was tied to Alexa’s voice recognition servers, though Amazon has not yet released a formal statement explaining what went wrong.
It seems Amazon has now fixed the issue, with Alexa and Slack functionality returning to normal by the mid-afternoon.