Hearing a smart speaker suddenly emit a chuckle for no good reason would creep anyone out, and Amazon’s Echo device has recently been doing exactly that.
The Echo’s digital assistant, Alexa, appeared to be laughing at random, without any prompting from the owner, though Amazon said on Wednesday, March 7 that the bizarre behavior was due to the device mishearing instructions.
On his late-night talk show this week, Jimmy Kimmel tried to get to the root of the issue by having a chat with Alexa herself, or at least, someone who sounds a lot like her.
Before the pair got talking, Kimmel explained to the audience that with his own Echo speaker, Alexa’s laugh “sometimes happens just after I take off my pants.”
Getting down to the nitty gritty, the host ponders, “Why did they program her to laugh in the first place?” Kimmel then brings an Echo speaker onto the set so that he can start his interrogation.
“Alexa, people have been reporting that you’ve been spontaneously laughing,” Kimmel begins.
Alexa responds with an innocent-sounding “oh,” before emitting a laugh so chilling it’d have Echo owners freezing to death if it was the real laugh that’s been reported in recent days.
Kimmel’s digital assistant says she was cackling because she just remembered a joke, which happens to be the old favorite: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Check out the video (above) to find out if her answer is as funny as she’d have you believe.
With her manic laughter filling the studio, Kimmel manages to throw in a quick Hilary Clinton gag before the floor manager scuttles on to carry the Echo — and Alexa — away.
Alexa’s seemingly random laugh caused a big fuss in the media this week, prompting Amazon to explain itself and issue a fix.
“In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase ‘Alexa, laugh'” the Seattle-based company said in a statement.
To end the creepiness, it said it would change the phrase that’s been prompting laughter to, “Alexa, can you laugh?” which, it said, “is less likely to have false positives.”
In addition, so that the device will never again simply emit a sudden laugh apparently out of the blue, Alexa will from here on in always respond first with, “Sure, I can laugh,” followed by a laugh.
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