Amazon has updated Alexa's ability to laugh on command after multiple Echo owners reported the virtual assistant was laughing for no reason and generally creeping everyone out.
Before the update, which landed in the evening of March 7, saying "Alexa, laugh" would cause her to make a brief laughing noise. However, the Echo speaker range and Alexa have a habit of mistakenly hearing the "Alexa" hotword and listening then speaking out of turn.
An Echo Dot owned by GearBrain regularly listens incorrectly and sometimes offers a reply which wasn't asked for. Recently, Alexa began speaking no fewer than four times during a single evening, as two people in the room were talking. A Google Home Mini in the same room very, very rarely does this.
But back to the creepy laughing. It was first reported in February this year, with one of the first accounts coming from Twitter user @CaptHanlebar, who posted a video of Alexa from an Echo Dot seemingly laughing for no reason. "So Alexa decided to laugh randomly while I was in the kitchen...I thought a kid was laughing behind me," they said.
So Alexa decided to laugh randomly while I was in the kitchen. Freaked @SnootyJuicer and I out. I thought a kid was laughing behind me. pic.twitter.com/6dblzkiQHp
— CaptHandlebar (@CaptHandlebar) February 23, 2018
It isn't clear how the person was able to shoot a video of the incident if it occurred randomly and without warning. A television can be heard in the background, which may have caused the speaker to hear something similar to "Alexa, laugh". However, adding to the strangeness of the incident, the user claims their Alexa app shows no record of the event. Normally, everything Alexa hears is logged on the app, complete with a recording of what caused Alexa to start listening.
Since then, there have been several incidents of Alexa laughing for no reason reported on Twitter. One user, called Gavin Hightower, said on February 26: "Lying in bed about to fall asleep when Alexa on my Amazon Echo Dot lets out a very loud and creepy laugh...there's a good chance I get murdered tonight."
Another, David Woodland, said on March 1: "Having an office conversation about pretty confidential stuff and Alexa just laughed. Anybody else ever have that? It didn't chime as if we had accidentally triggered her to wake. She simply just laughed. It was really creepy."
Lying in bed about to fall asleep when Alexa on my Amazon Echo Dot lets out a very loud and creepy laugh... there's a good chance I get murdered tonight.
— Gavin Hightower (@GavinHightower) February 26, 2018
No doubt sensing a PR disaster in the making, Amazon has acted quickly to stop Alexa from laughing for no reason. Instead of making her laugh by saying "Alexa, laugh", you now have to say "Alexa, can you laugh?". She then says: "Sure, I can laugh. Teehee."
Amazon says the new command is "less likely to cause false negatives", which appears to confirm the creepy laughing was caused by Alexa mistakenly hearing something which sounded like "Alexa, laugh", rather than a case of her genuinely laughing at you for no reason.
GearBrain has tested the two phrases. Saying "Alexa, laugh" causes her to listen then think for a moment, before her blue light going off. Saying: "Alexa, can you laugh?" returns: "Sure, I can laugh. Teehee." To be honest, we still think that's still a bit weird.