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Alexa scares some users with unsolicited laughter, but Amazon is working on a fix

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Today in 'totally creepy tech,' Amazon's Alexa voice assistant is laughing at users.

And no, we're not talking a playful giggle after it's been asked it to do something (which would still be weird). We're talking an unprompted cackle that's downright unsettling. You can hear it for yourself in this tweet from late February.

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Folks elsewhere on Reddit and Twitter (opens in new tab) are reporting that Alexa on devices like the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot utters a loud laugh out of nowhere, or in response to a typical command, like turning off the lights. In some cases, Alexa has refused to perform the task, making the situation all the more terrifying.

Unwelcome laughter

Amazon said in a statement to BuzzFeed News (opens in new tab) that it knows about Alexa's unprompted guffaws. 

"We're aware of this and working to fix it," the company's statement read. 

On follow-up, an Amazon spokesperson told TechRadar in an email that, "In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase 'Alexa, laugh.'"

To address this particular issue, Amazon is changing the prompt to 'Alexa, can you laugh?', which is less likely to produce false positives, or instances when Alexa thinks you're asking it to laugh, but you really aren't. 

Amazon is also disabling the 'Alexa, laugh' prompt. Finally, Amazon will now have Alexa first say, 'Sure, I can laugh,' followed by laughter, rather than going straight into laughter.

Still, this doesn't explain the instances when Alexa laughs when seemingly no one is talking. We've asked Amazon for more on this glitch.

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Needless to say, having a device laugh at you unprovoked is... frightening. 

Beyond simply being scary, there's already a level of invasion with having a device like the Amazon Echo or Google Home in your house, or other products with sensors and microphones, like TVs.

We trade-off the convenience of being able to speak voice commands to these machines, or have them anticipate our needs seemingly through osmosis, by giving up some level of privacy. With Alexa laughing at us unsolicited, the feeling of unease goes up just that much more.

Via The Verge (opens in new tab)

Michelle Fitzsimmons
Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.