Spooky spontaneous laugh freaks out Alexa users.
Terminator-style self-awareness jokes have abounded on the internet this week thanks to a glitch with Amazon’s Alexa home virtual assistant device. According to multiple users, their Alexas have begun randomly laughing maniacally, without provocation or request.
To fight back against what has to be a supremely creepy user experience, Amazon disabled one feature of the device and altered another. Initially, users could command their devices to laugh by simply saying, “Alexa, laugh.” Since this command could possibly be activated with a similar-sounding word or phrase, Amazon has disabled it. Users now must ask, “Alexa, can you laugh?” if for some bizarre reason they need their VAs to emit a canned laugh response.
Also, Amazon’s team has changed the response Alexa would provide when prompted to laugh. Previously, the command was simply met with laughter; now, however, the device will respond, “Sure, I can laugh…tee hee.” At least this will give users some small warning before the sound of robotic laughter inexplicably fills their homes.
Not the first time
While funny and a little bit alarming, this latest device issue isn’t the first time consumers have reported their Amazon devices firing up without being asked. Some have reported strange laundry lists of unrequested items, others have reported purchase offers that are eerily similar to a conversation taking place in the room. One White House official drew social media rage when she jokingly tweeted about her child placing an Amazon order via the device, and blamed the company rather than children being left unattended with an internet-connected virtual assistant.
All SkyNet and robot-overlord jokes aside, Alexa’s “always listening” capability has been useful in at least two criminal cases, one a murder and the other a home break-in. Some new skills have proven to be quite frivolous, but others can actually serve life-saving purposes, such as the ability to call out to your device to dial for help if you’ve fallen, as one older consumer has already had to do.