Reports of a strange error from owners of Amazon's Echo device range have surfaced, claiming the Alexa digital assistant is making an odd 'laugh' sound at random times, with the noises sometimes made without any verbal prompts, commands, or external forces interacting with the voice-activated speakers.
Posts to Reddit and Twitter found by Buzzfeed tell of instances where the Amazon Echo Dot, Echo, and other Echo hardware emits a laugh. While Alexa does have a laughing sound available by request, the noise produced in these instances have been described as "evil" and "creepy," unlike the built-in recording.
For some users, they say the sound was produced seemingly by Alexa itself, with no verbal prompting made by nearby listeners. Checks of the companion app also showed no indication that the Echo heard a command, not even a potential response to environmental sounds.
In some cases, users claim the sound has been made as an unexpected response to a standard query. Notably, the sound is stored in the Echo and can be re-heard using the "replay" request, used to play back recently spoken statements made by Alexa.
There has yet to be an official explanation for the issue, but online users have made suggestions as to what it could be. On Reddit, suggestions have ranged from someone playing a prank using the Drop In feature, which allows Echo owners to use Alexa Calling and Messaging to automatically connect to an acquaintance's Echo for a conversation, to an errant Alexa Skill.
AppleInsider has contacted Amazon for comment about the unusual issue.
The random "laugh" reports follow days after an Amazon Web Services disruption caused problems for a small number of Alexa users. During the regional issues, which primarily affected customers connecting to AWS US East, Alexa failed to respond to queries, instead reciting verbal apologies, playing chimes, and prompting Echo devices to show the red light ring warning of errors.
Update: Amazon has confirmed the problem to AppleInsider and has told us that "we're aware of this and working to fix it."
Update 2: Amazon claims that the random laughter is from the device misinterpreting ambient noises as a command to wake the device, and laugh. The company has also detailed steps that it will be taking to solve the problem.
"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,'" wrote Amazon in a statement. "We are also changing Alexa's response from simply laughter to 'sure, I can laugh' followed by laughter."