Miami computer science faculty member beats Amazon's Alexa

Video goes viral and trends No. 1

Norm KrumpeNorm Krumpe, senior      
lecturer in the CSE
department

By Allison Pierce, university news and communications intern

Miami University’s Norm Krumpe, senior lecturer in computer science, had the number one trending video in the United States on YouTube Thursday, Sept. 14, when he beat Amazon’s Alexa in a game of “Guess my Number.”

The game asks the user to pick a number between a chosen range, and Alexa will tell the user to guess higher or lower. Krumpe beat the game in two tries, guessing the correct number between zero to one million.

“It was a fluke,” said Krumpe. “I was playing the game, made a mistake and decided on a whim to test out a decimal number to see what would happen. I like to try unexpected things when testing software.”

Krumpe was surprised when Alexa revealed the number to him.

“Once I realized what was going on, I tried it a few more times and then decided to record and post the video,” he added.

As of Friday, Sept. 15, his video reached 787,239 views. The video was also mentioned on MSN.com.

Krumpe explained that Alexa also has other games, such as 20 questions, but she isn’t very good.

“I have found that I can win most of the time, but I am always testing the limits to see what happens if I ask something unexpected,” explained Krumpe.

One time Krumpe asked Alexa what the square root of negative one was; he was surprised to hear her answer correctly with the imaginary number “i.”

After the video went viral, many people claimed online that this shows artificial intelligence has a long way to go, but Krumpe does not think his discovery is related to these claims.

“I think my experience simply proves that, despite best efforts, we as software developers will always make mistakes and should always be thinking about testing and quality assurance,” said Krumpe. “I imagine that this game was a side project for someone on the Amazon Echo team and does not reflect how the rest of Alexa works.”

Krumpe is a senior lecturer and chief departmental adviser in computer science and software engineering.