Over the past few days, users with Alexa-enabled devices have reported hearing strange, unprompted laughter. Amazon responded to the reports Wednesday, saying, “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.”
Later on in the day, Amazon said its planned fix will involve disabling the phrase, “Alexa, laugh,” and changing the command to “Alexa, can you laugh?” The company says the latter phrase is “less likely to have false positives,” or in other words the Alexa software is likely to mistake common words and phrases that sound similar to the one that makes Alexa start laughing. “We are also changing Alexa’s response from simply laughter to ‘Sure, I can laugh,’ followed by laughter,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
As noted in media reports and a trending Twitter moment, Alexa seemed to start laughing without being prompted to wake. People on Twitter and Reddit reported that they thought it was an actual person laughing near them, which is certainly scary if you’re home alone. Many responded to the cackling sounds by unplugging their Alexa-enabled devices.
Twitter user @CaptHandlebar was one of the first to report experiencing this back on February 22nd:
— CaptHandlebar (@CaptHandlebar) February 23, 2018
Since then, different people have noted hearing the laughter. It’s sometimes unprompted or appears as a bizarre response to requests to turn off the lights.
Lying in bed about to fall asleep when Alexa on my Amazon Echo Dot lets out a very loud and creepy laugh… there’s a good chance I get murdered tonight.
— Gavin Hightower (@GavinHightower) February 26, 2018
— Tal Goldfus (@talgoldfus) February 23, 2018
Fixing it or not, it’s still pretty creepy. It sounds a little like we’re heading in the direction of all of those movies where robots take over the world. Many have been expressing concerns for a while regarding the privacy and safety surrounding artificial intelligence. Now with this new horror movie-like scare, the controversy surrounding digital assistants is more widespread than ever. What do you think? Have you experienced the terrifying laugh with your Echo? If so, will you be saying bye-bye to Alexa and tossing her in the trash?