The heated debate over the extent of privacy and security in a world where "always-listening" devices are available as a tabletop accessory has been raging on. Recently, bemused users reported that Alexa, Amazon premier digital assistant, would randomly start laughing without being asked to do so. It turns out, the event was triggered due to Alexa somehow interpreting two humans having a chat as "Alexa, laugh", commanding it to laugh. The company has now changed the command to "Alexa, can you laugh?".
Amazon explained in an email statement:
“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.'"
The company also stated that Alexa would acknowledge the command before laughing by saying, "Sure, I can laugh." Unfortunately, Amazon's explanation does not provide an insight into the reasoning behind Alexa's laughter in a quiet room.
Smart home assistants are growing at a fast pace, leading critics to grapple with the increasing reach of such devices. Apart from the obvious security fears, the "always-on" assistants are prone to external manipulation as well as reliability issues due to server outages. Yet, trends show that smart home speakers are here to stay.
Source: The New York Times