Amazon’s Alexa platform appears to have a glitch of some sort that is causing it to laugh at inopportune moments, with reports cropping up all over the internet from both the media and creeped out users alike. The A.I. assistant has several different laughs it is programmed to respond to some queries with, but these “responses” now appear to be happening at random. While the most frequently reported cases are those where an Alexa-enabled device will just begin laughing for no reason whatsoever, in some cases it has reportedly been doing it in response to mundane requests. In one example, a Twitter user was simply commenting on a television program and Alexa laughed. Meanwhile, other users have reported the laugh following a failure to follow home control voice commands.
It’s a bit early to begin claiming that this is some kind of an A.I. revolution and, as noted above, the occurrences appear random. With that said, this may be symptomatic of a deeper underlying problem in the code of some devices or Alexa itself. At very least, that seems to be the most likely culprit behind the laughter. Another possibility may be that this is some sort of deliberate hoax or joke being played on consumers by one or more engineers at Amazon. This is not the first time a digital assistant has performed in surprising or unexpected ways. Google’s AI speaker, the Google Home Mini, required a button to be disabled and redesigned to prevent unwanted activation. So the Alexa issue could also be a long-standing hardware bug or something of the sort. In any case, it is somewhat fitting that the A.I.’s glitch, in this case, results in laughter – even if it is creepy by some accounts. The online shipping giant has yet to make any kind of formal response to the reports.
In the meantime, a wide variety of users are opting to simply unplug or deactivate their Alexa enabled-products instead of taking any chances. Amazon is likely to begin addressing the newly emerged issue soon. With many already on edge about Alexa and smart speakers in general, a glitch such as this could have serious implications on its standing as the leading A.I. assistant in the U.S.
An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed that Amazon will be updating Alexa and changing some elements of the phrasing used that initiates the laugh command on devices powered by Alexa. According to Amazon, there are “rare cases” where Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase “Alexa, laugh” and will then carry out the command. To fix this bug, Amazon will be removing this command phrasing and replacing it with “Alexa, can you laugh?” which will then prompt Alexa to respond by first saying “sure” before laughing.
— CaptHandlebar (@CaptHandlebar) February 23, 2018