Amazon promises fix for creepy Alexa laugh

Dave Lee
North America technology reporter

Amazon's Alexa is finding something funny, and scaring some usersImage source, Amazon
Image caption,
Amazon's Alexa is finding something funny, and scaring some users

Amazon’s Alexa has been letting out an unprompted, creepy cackle - startling users of the best-selling voice assistant.

The laugh, described by some as “witch like” was reported to sometimes happen without the device being “woken” up.

Others reported the laugh occurring when they asked Alexa to perform a different task, such as playing music.

"We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” Amazon said.

"In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase 'Alexa, laugh'.

"We are changing that phrase to be 'Alexa, can you laugh?' which is less likely to have false positives, and we are disabling the short utterance 'Alexa, laugh'.

"We are also changing Alexa's response from simply laughter to 'sure, I can laugh' followed by laughter."

Voice assistants like Alexa are designed to respond or act only when prompted with a wake word, which in this case is “Alexa” or “Amazon”.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

But some people have suggested the glitch happened without any prior interaction, spooking Alexa owners.

"WHY DID MY ALEXA JUST LAUGH OUT OF THE BLUE?!?!?!?” wrote one user on Twitter.

Another wrote: "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.”

The use of voice assistants in the home is often met with caution due to their nature - voice commands are recorded and sent to the cloud for processing, a system that stokes a fear of eavesdropping, unintended or otherwise.

Incidents like this, where an assistant seems to rebel against its owner, naturally further this concern. That said, most users on social media have reacted with humour, drawing parallels with HAL 9000 from the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“I’m sorry, Dave,” the machine famously said. “I’m afraid I can’t do that."