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Alexa, Please Stop Laughing: Amazon Says It’s Fixing Device’s Unprompted Cackles

Photo caption:

Photo by Elaine Thompson AP

[Insert disturbing reference to HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey here.]

Late at night, in the gathered shadows of your bedroom, you may have heard it. Or, perhaps you heard it over breakfast with your family in the kitchen, the sound rising unbidden from over your shoulder in a corner of the room you had thought — and now, desperately wish — to be empty.

Laughter. Quick, inhuman laughter.

At least, that's what Amazon Echo owners say they've been hearing lately. In recent weeks, many of them have hit social media saying their smart speakers have been laughing spontaneously, unprompted by commands.

The random cackling, as you can imagine, has been described variously as "really creepy," a good reason why it's "time to move" and "the scariest s*** I've ever heard."

"I was trying to turn off some lights and they kept turning back on," one Reddit user observed. "After the third request, Alexa stopped responding and instead did an evil laugh."

As it turns out, these Echo owners are not hearing voices. Well, they are — but these voices are, in fact, real: Amazon has confirmed that the device's virtual assistant known as Alexa has been laughing without users' intentional commands, and the company says it is working on a fix.

"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,' " a spokesperson said in a statement.

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

Now, if you do not happen to own an Amazon Echo and you are still hearing laughter from empty rooms inside your house ... well, it really may be time to move.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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