Amazon issues fix for Alexa’s random bursts of creepy laughter

Amazon Echo owners have been reporting strange laughter coming from their home assistants

Thomas McMullan
8 Mar 2018

Reports have emerged about Amazon’s AI assistant, Alexa, developing an unnerving new skill: randomly chuckling to itself without any apparent prompting.

Amazon has now acknowledged the problem, and is fixing it by disabling the phrase “Alexa, laugh”. The company thinks that a number of Echo devices were being prompted to laugh after mishearing that request, so Amazon will change it in favour of “Alexa, can you laugh?”.

“We are also changing Alexa’s response from simply laughter to ‘Sure, I can laugh,’ followed by laughter,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Verge.

Footage of Alexa amusing itself has surfaced over the past few weeks. On 23 February, Twitter user @CaptHandlebar posted a clip of an Amazon Echo cackling unprompted. “I thought a kid was laughing behind me,” he notes.

Another Twitter user reported that Alexa started laughing just as they were getting ready to sleep:

For a company that’s still trying to convince people to let an always-listening AI assistant into their homes, random creepy laughter probably isn’t the best move. Then again, maybe a bit more vocal judgement from Alexa would make it feel like a living roommate: a curt tusk every now and then, a sigh, or a nudge to wash up the dishes. 

Amazon says the issue only happens in “rare circumstances” and the fix should stop “false positives” from occurring. The sound of the machine’s laughter at our lives has been stopped, at least for now.

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