Alexa laughing at you? A fix should be incoming


This event shines a light on just how little control we have over our smart speakers.

Over the last few weeks, a handful of surprised, confused, scared, or just downright annoyed users have reported that their Alexa enabled devices have been laughing at them. Seemingly out of nowhere and at completely random times, it’s easy to see how a random realistic laugh could be frightening. Amazon has pulled back the curtain just slightly to talk about what went wrong and their attempts to fix it, though this event also shines a light on just how little control we have over our smart speakers.

According to Amazon, Alexa devices were incorrectly “hearing” a command to laugh. A short command of “Alexa, laugh” would ultimately result in the offending random laughter, though based on the complaints, nobody seemed to have said that wake phrase, and in some instances no other noise could have possibly set it off. To alleviate the issue, Amazon is making a few small changes:

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.

Whether that will be enough to stop the random unwanted laughter is yet to be seen, but it highlights just how little we’re able to do to troubleshoot or dig into problems on these speakers. The fix is enabled server-side, the “problem” was only identified after Amazon specifically checked into it, users who heard laughter and checked their own Alexa settings couldn’t find anything that could have prompted the laughter.

The NY Mag source link below is worth a read, but their conclusion really kind of puts the whole issue into focus:

Whenever you connect a Wi-Fi light bulb to your smart speaker, or link another product to it, you are assembling a powerful program that can control many different parts of your digital identity (and your home!) on a computer that you don’t own and can’t access. No wonder Alexa is laughing at you.

What do you think about random Alexa laughter? Is Amazon doing enough to fix the issue? Would you prefer a bit more transparency into the inner workings of your smart speaker? Let us know in the comment section below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

  Source: NY Mag
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