Imagine you're home alone and all of the sudden you hear a very human-like woman's laugh from a room that you know is empty. Welcome to the nightmare of Amazon Echo owners experiencing a bizarre glitch.
For decades we've speculated as a society about what would happen if artificial intelligence managed to form a mind of its own and started acting according to free will. We can't confirm that that's what's going on with Amazon Echo... but it's terrifying people nonetheless.
According to Buzzfeed, an Amazon Echo owner reportedly asked Alexa to turn off the lights in their home, only for Alexa to turn the lights on and off again repeatedly and then laugh maniacally. A twitter user reported asking Alexa to turn his lamp off for him... only for the device to laugh and leave the lamp on instead. Another owner of an Amazon Echo Dot told Alexa to turn off an alarm scheduled for the following morning, a request the device responded to by uttering a "witch-like" cackle. So basically, not only are the Echos ignoring commands, they're rubbing their disobedience in their owners' faces.
Other users with similar experiences have described "bone-chilling" and "child-like" laugher, and some even unplugged their speakers altogether to prevent them from the unnerving cackling in the night.
But mostly witnesses to the spontaneous laughter were just straight up freaked out.
The Amazon Echo, featuring the voice of personal assistant character Alexa, is supposed to respond to pre-programmed prompts such as the word "Alexa" or "Amazon", in order to "wake up" and perform tasks. The Echo has a feature that allows it to respond to jokes, but it's not supposed to randomly burst into laughter, unprompted. Since last month, Echo owners have been complaining that Alexa has been eerily laughing out of the blue, but seemingly Amazon is only starting to take notice now.
Amazon responded that it knows some of the Echo home devices have been laughing spontaneously, and told Business Insider, "We're aware of this and working to fix it." They later admitted that the Echos are mistakenly hearing the command "Alexa, laugh" and responding to that misheard instruction.
According to Amazon, they've already reprogrammed Alexa to only laugh in response to "Alexa, can you laugh?" and have disabled the "Alexa, laugh" command so the misunderstandings will stop. They've also changed the programming so that instead of bursting into spontaneous laughter, Alexa responds, "Sure, I can laugh" before making the sounds.
The misheard instruction explanation makes sense for the users that were asking Alexa to meddle with lights, but doesn't explain why some Echo owners' devices started laughing completely unprompted, without any "wake up" word to turn the device on.
We're willing to accept this explanation for now, but it still makes us wonder who (or what) is really pulling the strings at HQ. The employees at Amazon, or some newly-sentient, artificially intelligent overlords?
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