Alexa, the digital personal assistant, developed by Amazon, has reportedly developed an unusual habit. Over the past few days, several users of Alexa-enabled devices complained on social media that their gadgets would voluntarily produce sounds of laughing without being prompted or asked.
Alexa interacts with voice commands from its owners, and can play music, read audiobooks, stream podcasts, provide information and news in real time, as and when asked to do so by its owner. To activate an Alexa-enabled device, a user would need to say the “wake word”, to which the device would respond.
Hence, the unprompted laughing from certain Alexa-enabled devices, without the use of a “wake word”, across the globe has scared and startled their customers.
“Having an office conversation about pretty confidential stuff and Alexa just laughed. Anybody else ever have that? It didn’t chime as if we had accidentally trigerred her to wake. She simply just laughed. It was real creepy,” David Woodland, user of an Alexa-enabled device, tweeted.
One Reddit user reported Alexa producing a “chilling, witch-like laugh”, while another called the laugh “evil” and that it resembled a real person laughing. Here are some of the strangest instances of Alexa laughs as reported by Twitter users. Some even recorded their Alexa devices laughing.
Amazon soon acknowledged the problem, and in a statement to The Verge, said that the company is “aware of this and working to fix it”. The company said that one of its planned fixes is that it would disable the command, “Alexa, laugh”, and change it to “Alexa, can you laugh?”. According to the company, the new command has less chance to bring about “false positives” i.e cases where the Alexa software is likely to consider certain words and phrases as ones that would make it produce the sound of laughter.
Meanwhile, Twitter users cannot help but find these reports of Alexa’s uncalled-for laughter funny. Here is a sampling.
One user edited footage featuring an Alexa device to the controversial laughter of an opposition minister in the Rajya Sabha that rankled members of the ruling party in February.
Some Twitter users have found parallels to a digital software producing laughing sounds without being asked to with movies and television series where artificial intelligence-driven machines are the cause of mayhem and destruction, such as the Terminator films, Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) which featured the malevolent supercomputer HAL 9000, and the dystopian science fiction series Black Mirror. The web streaming platform Netflix which has produced the last two seasons of Black Mirror has itself joined the bandwagon.