Amazon Alexa is people's creepiest nightmare
Amazon Alexa is people's creepiest nightmare. Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, first used in the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices.
Posted 12 months ago in Entertainment, updated 12 months ago.
Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, first used in the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices. It is capable of voice interactions, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and weather, traffic and other real-time information such as news. Most devices with Alexa allow users to activate the device using a wake-word (such as ECHO); other devices require the user to push a button to activate Alexa’s listening mode. Currently, the interaction mode is available in English, German and Japanese.
Over the past few days, users with Alexa-enabled devices have reported hearing strange, unprompted laughter. Amazon responded to the creepiness on 8th March 2018 in a statement to The Verge, saying,” we’re aware of this and working to fix it”.
Alexa, Amazon’s voice-assistant which powers the Echo speakers, is creepily laughing for no explicit reason, according to user reports. Amazon has admitted this is an issue and promised it will be issuing a fix. According to the posts on Twitter, users reported that Alexa was laughing without any command being given by the user, and some of them were decidedly freaked out.
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 crackling sounds by unplugging their Alexa-enabled devices.
Smart speakers like the Echo or even Google Home, which is powered by the Google Assistant, rely on commands from the user to respond. So saying, ‘Hey Alexa read me the news from today,’ will prompt Alexa to carry out this task on the Echo speaker. Since Alexa is powered by AI, after the command is given, it will then go on to read the news for the user.
Amazon's Echo is emitting chilling laughter and refusing to do what is asked of it. The terrifying behavior is leading people to lose sleep and to unplug their devices, amid fears their smart speakers are after them. But the chilling behavior doesn't demonstrate that the machines are about to take over. In fact, it shows just how far they've got to go.
So a number of the people reporting the horrible laughter say it came as they were instructing Alexa to turn off the lights, making it even more worrying since it's likely to happen as you're lying in bed. But what appears to happen is that the Alexa mishears "lights" for "laugh" – and then does so. This explanation doesn't solve all the mystery of the laughter since some people have claimed that they have heard their Echo laughing when nothing has been said to it. But it's possible that in those situations Alexa is hearing something else, and understanding it as laugh.
Amazon appears to believe that this is the reason the strange laugh is coming out. That can be seen in its proposed solution: it will update the Alexa service so that it can only be triggered by asking "Alexa, can you laugh?" and making sure that it will be explicit about why it's laughing before it does so. But none of that is really any use if it doesn't give you a way to stop Alexa making the creepy laughing sound. And there isn't, apart from trying to make sure that you enunciate in such a way that you won't be heard to be saying "laugh".