The test models of Amazon's Alexa-powered devices frustrated employees and even Jeff Bezos.
Engineers once heard Bezos tell the device to "shoot yourself in the head," a new book says.
Other testers said it was a stupid product and would hardly respond correctly.
When Amazon was testing what would eventually become Alexa, some workers and even the company's CEO, Jeff Bezos, were frustrated with its performance, according to a new book about the business.
Bezos tested an Alexa-powered device - a project referred to as the "Doppler" - at his home in Seattle. "In pique of frustration over its lack of comprehension, he told Alexa to go 'shoot yourself in the head,'" Brad Stone wrote in his book "Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire," released on Tuesday.
Engineers who reviewed interactions with the device heard Bezos' comment and thought the project was done for.
Hundreds of Amazon employees also tested the device and complained of its lack of intelligence.
One manager who had to fill out a spreadsheet every week explaining what questions he'd asked and how the device had responded said that "it would hardly ever give me the right answer."
Another tester said it was a stupid product, adding that the device was "doomed" because it "didn't work for shit."
But eventually engineers at the company figured out how to make the "Doppler" smarter. In 2014, Amazon released the first version of its novel Alexa device. Within five years, the company had sold more than 100 million devices with Alexa built in.
Use of the Alexa devices soared during the pandemic as people started using them more to connect and even to find out what day of the week it was. They've helped people find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine and schedule an appointment. Amazon didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on this story.
In his last shareholder letter, Bezos said that when he started the company in 1997, "we hadn't invented Prime, Marketplace, Alexa, or AWS."
"They weren't even ideas then, and none was preordained," he said. "We took great risk with each one and put sweat and ingenuity into each one."
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