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]

Trulia Now Makes Browsing Neighborhoods as Easy as Browsing Homes

iStock
iStock

An online real estate listing can tell you the number of bedrooms, the square footage, and the price of a property, but until you arrive in person, it's hard to know if the location will be a good fit for you. Trulia is looking to tackle that problem with a new Neighborhoods feature, as Fast Company reports, letting you virtually explore your potential home's surroundings before you show up for the tour.

Trulia, a listings site owned by Zillow, already offers all the standard information you would get from any other real estate service. Now, the new Trulia Neighborhoods feature also makes it possible to research various neighborhoods within the app the same way you would research individual houses and apartments.

The Neighborhoods feature includes a slideshow of annotated images of each neighborhood captured by Trulia's team of photographers and videographers. It also has some objective data about the area, like maps of local businesses, as well as first-hand reports from residents. In the "What the Locals Say" section, for instance, you might find that 90 percent of people reported that a neighborhood is quiet, while just 50 percent said it's easy to find parking there. This part also includes personal testimonies from individual users that you can browse by topic, such as "community" or "dog owners." Neighborhoods also allows you to easily access data on schools, safety, and commute times.

Trulia Neighborhoods isn't available for every market yet. For now, you can only take advantage of it if you're house-hunting in one of 300 neighborhoods across five U.S. cities—San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Austin, and Chicago. Trulia plans to expand the feature to more than 1100 neighborhoods by the end of 2018.

[h/t Fast Company]

Watch the Museum of London's Fatberg Sweat and Grow Mold in Real Time

Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images
Daniel Leal-Olivas, AFP/Getty Images

Unlike most other museums exhibits, the fatberg sample at the Museum of London is constantly changing. The chunk of congealed grease and garbage changes color, sweats, and even produces broods of freshly hatched flies. Now, The Guardian reports that you can stay up-to-date on the fatberg's ever-shifting status by livestreaming it into your home.

On August 14, the Museum of London debuted its live FatCam on its website. The dried-out fat glob in the video is one of the last remaining samples of the Whitechapel fatberg, a 143-ton mass consisting of oil poured down sink drains and city litter that was discovered in London's sewer system in September 2017.

From February 9 to July 1, 2018, the museum displayed the unique artifact under three layers of cases for visitors to see. The object proved difficult to preserve, and curators weren't entirely sure it would make it to the end of its exhibition, let alone survive to see another showing.

The fatberg has since been quarantined in the museum's archives. Rather than alter the fatberg to keep it around as long as possible, the museum has decided to broadcast its gradual demise to the world.

In the month since the sample has been taken off display and placed in a special case, drastic changes have been documented. Yellow pustules have surfaced on the fatberg's exterior—a sign of what conservators have determined is the toxic mold aspergillus. The object likely grew the spores when it was on display and only now have they become visible.

Dangerous mold and other organisms living within the crevices of the fat mounds are some of the reasons why the sample is no longer available to view in person. For a safer and slightly less disgusting view of the fatberg, check out the live stream below.

[h/t The Guardian]

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