Alexa Has Started Randomly Laughing at Users, and Amazon Is On It

Amazon
Amazon

Amazon Echo owners may already be worried about the potential for their digital sidekick Alexa to listen in on their conversations at home, but now there’s another reason to get anxious about Alexa technology: She might sporadically laugh at you. According to The Verge, Alexa-enabled devices have been waking up without prompting and laughing, and Amazon is “aware of this and working to fix it.”

If you have an Amazon smart home speaker already, you are probably used to the sound of Alexa’s robot voice, a soothingly artificial lilt. The Alexa laughter, meanwhile, sounds shockingly human, according to user videos posted of the phenomenon. Some people report that it comes completely out of the blue, while others say that it can be a response to an unrelated request, like turning off the lights.

My humble kitchen Echo, meanwhile, has yet to let out a chuckle. When I asked my Echo, “Alexa, what does your laugh sound like?” she merely responded, “Sorry, I don’t know that one.”

“Alexa,” I asked again, “can you laugh for me?”

“Sure,” she finally said, letting out a kind of cartoon-falsetto “teehee!” It wasn't the laughter that other creeped-out Echo users have posted, though.

Mashable has one potential explanation. The oddly human, unprompted laughter could be the result of somehow enabling and triggering an Alexa skill that lets the voice assistant laugh. Hopefully, Amazon will figure out a fix soon, so we can all breathe easily around Alexa again.

[h/t The Verge]

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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No Squawking, Please: A Backyard Bird Library Is the Star of This Livestream

Bird Library, YouTube
Bird Library, YouTube

Many people discovered backyard birding when they were quarantined in their homes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you have a vibrant wildlife population in your area, the Bird Library webcam is worth checking out. As Atlas Obscura reports, the bird feeder at the focus of the livestream resembles a tiny library where feathered guests can misbehave.

Librarian Rebecca Flowers and woodworker Kevin Cwalina were inspired to build the Bird Library in 2015. Located in a backyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, it features a miniature reading chair, bookshelves, and a reception desk. The decorations are even updated to match the seasons; the feeder currently sports a banner that says "Summer Reading." The main differences setting it apart from a real library are the bird seed scattered on the floor and the avian visitors.

The Bird Library attracts a diverse collection of patrons. Sparrows, cardinals, and mourning doves have been recorded perching on the librarian's desk and checking out the reading materials. The occasional squirrel has also been known to stop by.

Live video of the feeder streams on the Bird Library's YouTube page and website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can play the video below to check in on the current guests. If the backyard Bird Library has inspired you to find birds closer to home, here's some gear for beginner naturalists.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]