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Burger King's new TV ad deliberately activates Google Home and Assistant (Update: Google shuts it down)

A new TV ad campaign from Burger King is making a dubious debut today, as it deliberately tries to activate the Google Home speaker and Google Assistant.

Published onApril 12, 2017

Update: It looks like Google quickly caught onto Burger King’s “clever” advertisement.

According to The Verge, Google Home will no longer respond when asked the specific question stated in the Burger King ad, which is “What is the Whopper burger?” Google Home will still respond with the top Wikipedia result when an actual person asks the same question, but apparently Google registered the sound clip from the ad to disable unwanted triggers. The company does the same thing in its own Google Home commercials.

As it turns out, users around the world started editing the Wikipedia entry for the Whopper, adding that the burger is “cancer-causing”, “a chocolate candy”, and including ingredients like “toenail clippings” and “rat”. Wikipedia has locked the entry, allowing only authorized administrators to edit the page.

Original post: In the past, we have heard about voice command-based devices that get activated accidentally when a TV show or ad triggers them. However, for the first time, a TV commercial is trying to deliberately activate these kinds of products, specifically the Google Home speaker and Google Assistant.

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Burger King’s ad can be found below. The idea behind the 15-second commercial is that the person in the Burger King uniform does not have the time to list all of the ingredients that go into the fast food brand’s Whopper hamburger. So the employee says at the end, “OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger?” Needless to say, if you don’t want your Google Home or Assistant to be activated, turn down the volume.

If you did decide to have Home or Assistant hear the end of the ad, it would have stated the first lines from the Whopper entry on Wikipedia. According to Adweek, Google was not involved in the making of this new commercial. The ad, which was made by a Miami firm, is scheduled to run on cable TV networks like Adult Swim, History, Spike, Comedy Central, MTV, E! and Bravo.

This new, and very annoying, commercial comes just a few weeks after Google suffered a black eye for a different kind of commercial linked to Home and Assistant. It ran what sounded a lot like an ad for Disney’s recent feature film Beauty and the Beast when you asked for your daily briefing. This message was quickly removed after a few hours, with the company later stating that it “wasn’t intended to be an ad”, but admitting that “we could have done better in this case”.

The fact that ad companies might start to target voice command-based products like Google Home or Assistant, or perhaps other devices like Amazon’s Echo speakers, with TV commercials is certainly something we don’t want to see take off. The fact that something can just reach out and trigger a response from these kinds of products could lead to a lot of privacy concerns, not to mention the fact that it could undermine the sales of these kinds of devices.

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