Afrikaans speaking parrot places Amazon order

22 September 2017 - 08:54 By Katharine Child
Barry‚ the African Grey Parrot‚ may have become the first bird to buy a gift on Amazon.
Barry‚ the African Grey Parrot‚ may have become the first bird to buy a gift on Amazon.
Image: ultimatecakeart via Instagram

Online shopping these days is for the birds.

Barry‚ the African Grey Parrot‚ may have become the first bird to buy a gift on Amazon.

Alexa‚ an Amazon invention‚ is an intelligent Bluetooth speaker that responds to voice commands and will order pizza‚ set reminders or even tell a joke.

Earlier in the week South African-born London resident Corienne Pretorius arrived home and could hear her parrot talking to Alexa. The speaker turns on when addressed by its name‚ "Alexa".

What Pretorius didn't realise until later was that the conversation between Barry and Alexa had resulted in an order being placed with Amazon.

The Alexa voice service is described by Amazon as needing nothing but the sound of your voice‚ to "search the Web‚ create to-do and shopping lists‚ shop online‚ get instant weather reports‚ and control popular smart-home products— all while your phone stays in your pocket".

When Pretorius received an e-mail confirming an order had been placed with Amazon‚ she listened to the Alexa recording. She could hear the parrot speaking "gibberish" to the machine. Alexa responds to the gibberish and asks aloud if the order is for gift boxes and mentions the word "bubble wrap".

The parrot hears the response and squawks.

Pretorius says Alexa must have interpreted the parrot's chirp as the word "yes"‚ required for the purchase to take place.

Pretorius told TimesLIVE that her husband‚ Jan‚ has now added a pin code‚ which must be quoted before Alexa makes a purchase in future.

Pretorius acquired Alexa from her father and used it mostly to set reminders. She would turn it on by saying its name and then ask to be reminded to turn off the bath taps.

It was after a few days of her speaking to Alexa that Barry learned to say "Alexa".

Pretorius is amazed at how popular the story of her shopping parrot is.

"Everybody is talking about it. My friend in South Africa heard it discussed on the radio. My dad heard it discussed on the radio in Australia. When you called‚ a radio station from Florida in the USA had just called me."

"Barry doesn't speak when in I am in the room‚ only out of it‚" she said. The parrot has learnt to say "lekker slaap (sleep well)‚" which she tells her son before bed. "It says it at the right time‚ when we go to bed."

Barry swears in Afrikaans‚ she admits‚ but added: "We don't swear a lot in the house. Barry only needs to hear something three times (to learn it)."