Amazon Echo’s popular assistant Alexa has been reportedly laughing at users at random times. This bug has been occurring massively across Echo devices, creeping out their users and triggering AI paranoia for many. As a result of the creepy reports, Amazon stated: “We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” by disabling any sign of laughter by Alexa.
— CaptHandlebar (@CaptHandlebar) February 23, 2018
Reported cases of Alexa laughter bugs
An exact number of people affected by this bug has not been reported, but it is known that Alexa’s spontaneous response started simultaneously in various devices, initially when asked to turn on or off the lights of the house.
Most reports from Alexa’s laughter replacing commands from users have been made through Reddit and Twitter. Social media bursting with cases of spontaneous AI laughter have certainly given Alexa a spotlight online.
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 triggered her to wake. She simply just laughed. It was really creepy.
— David Woodland (@DavidSven) March 1, 2018
@DavidSven posted via his Twitter account “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 triggered her to wake. She simply just laughed. It was really creepy.”
Among the increasing reports through Twitter, this Alexa incident has happened in offices, kitchens, and, in one of the worst of cases, in bedrooms as people get ready for bed. Gavin Hightower experienced this when, out of nowhere, Alexa let out “very loud creepy laugh” breaking the silence, and causing him to think: “there’s a good chance I get murdered tonight.”
The most disturbing part of Alexa’s laughter is that it is not always triggered by a misunderstood command. Since it could vaguely mishear them, the fact is that Alexa has been spotted with various waves of laughter, from loud silence breaking to unprompted giggles.
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
How Amazon Alexa works
Alexa is enabled to interact to with most smart devices regardless of their brand, which allows Amazon products powered by Alexa to help automate the user’s home using the Alexa Skill library and, for the more tech-savvy users, custom commands with the Skill Kit.
"Still don't know what to think," Try thinking this: "I should get the damn machine that listens to every word we utter out of the damn house double-quick." https://t.co/Qx2FEZV8Q1
— Harry Shearer (@theharryshearer) March 7, 2018
Amazon’s response: “We are working to fix it”
Amazon stated that part of the problem is having Alexa enabled in home speaker, which for the AI-powered assistant may accidentally lead to it hearing the phrase “Alexa, laugh,” triggering the creepy unrequested action to occur.
As a solution, Amazon will change the response to the trigger phrase “Can you laugh?” in all Alexa powered devices, and is changing the answer into one in which the assistant will now respond with a stiffer “Sure, I can laugh.”
Many have compared the Alexa surprise to HAL 9000 when it responds “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” triggering massive disturbance on users and AI paranoia.