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Amazon has a fix for Alexa’s creepy laughs

Users with Alexa-enabled devices have begun reporting hearing strange, unprompted laughter.


Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Over the past few days, users with Alexa-enabled devices have reported hearing strange, unprompted laughter. Amazon responded to the creepiness today in a statement to The Verge, saying, “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.”

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Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Featuring original photography and video from The Verge staff.

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 cackling sounds by unplugging their Alexa-enabled devices.

Twitter user @CaptHandlebar was one of the first to report experiencing this back on February 22nd:

So Alexa decided to laugh randomly while I was in the kitchen. Freaked @SnootyJuicer and I out. I thought a kid was laughing behind me. pic.twitter.com/6dblzkiQHp

— CaptHandlebar (@CaptHandlebar) February 23, 2018

Since then, different people have noted hearing the laughter. It’s sometimes unprompted or appears as a bizarre response to requests to turn off the lights.

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

Many have related the laughter back to a moment in 2001: A Space Odyssey when HAL 9000 acknowledges his murderous intentions and proclaims, “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Maybe it’s a sign that having smart devices in our homes is another step toward a creepy, dystopian future where robot overlords rule. When does that Terminator sequel come out again?

Update at 7:05PM ET, 3/7: Added new statement from Amazon clarifying how the company plans to fix Alexa’s creepy laugh. The headline has been updated to reflect this new information.

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