Amazon Alexa: Laughing its way into the press?

Amazon hits the headlines after Amazon Alexa users reported their devices laughing…unprompted. Customers have voiced concerns that the virtual assistant is laughing at them whilst they’re in mid-conversation, or even during silent intervals.

People who have been making simple requests, such as “skip song”, have instead been greeted by a sinister, and eerily childlike, laugh [the stuff made of nightmares]. Listen at your own peril…

 

Creepy, right?

via GIPHY

Amazon released a statement suggesting that when Alexa’s users are in mid-conversation, the device can mistakenly hear the instruction to laugh. Amazon are adjusting the command for laughter from ‘Alexa, laugh’ to ‘Alexa, can you laugh’ in a bid to prevent unexpected cackles coming from the device.

This still doesn’t explain why Alexa has disturbed some of its users’ mid-slumber…but it’s undoubtedly a brilliant talking point.

And it has certainly sparked many questions. Are spirits hacking our virtual assistants to send messages from beyond the grave? Are these the first signs of an uprising: humans vs machines? [Think Will Smith in 2004 film, iRobot].

via GIPHY

But seriously, the biggest question of all is…the legitimacy of the device glitch.

It’s clear that users are experiencing issues with the device, however is it still possible that this is a deliberate PR stunt to rouse discussions about Amazon’s Alexa?

Whilst Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri fail to compete with Amazon’s Alexa, Google is making waves in the virtual assistant market and fights back with its Google Assistant.

Amazon has been successful in securing partnerships with various watches, cars, TVs and headphones, however Google is also integrating their virtual assistant with various other products and is now compatible with more than 1,500 smart home devices [TIME].  Whilst Amazon sold “tens of millions” of Alexa devices over the 2017 holiday season [Geek Wire], Google claims to have sold over 6.7 million Home and Home Mini speakers during the same period [Business Insider].

Source: The Verge

The rivalry between Google and Amazon was most evident at CES [Consumer Electronics Show] in January 2018 with Google’s Assistant overshadowing Amazon’s Alexa for the first time at the show.  Google’s exhibition included a huge branded booth, a gumball machine, and a “Hey Google” print on the Las Vegas Monorail, demonstrating a clear focus on their voice assistant.

Amazon launched their virtual assistant back in November 2014, whilst Google Assistant was unveiled 18 months later in May 2016. Whilst Alexa’s early release has enabled the device to gain significant traction, Google Assistant has grown enormously since its launch, and has succeeded in thwarting the likes of Cortana and Siri. Is it possible that Amazon see Google as a threat to their current monopoly?

Most definitely.

If Alexa’s creepy laughter is a publicity stunt to sustain consumers’ interest in Amazon’s virtual assistant and shake off building competition from the Google Assistant… they have succeeded.

@Google – we await your response.

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