This week, the world was horrified as users of Amazon’s Alexa devices reported that the gizmos were emitting ‘evil’ and ‘witch-like’ laughs without warning.
Some users reported that their devices refused to obey commands, before laughing darkly to themselves.
So have we reached the sci-fi moment when robots turn on their human masters?
We’re not quite there yet, but some robots are already showing worrying signs….
The robot who wants to ‘destroy humans’
In 2016, a human-like Android confirmed everything sci fi taught us about robots – by purring, ‘I will destroy humans’ in a TV interview.
The robot, Sophia, has cameras behind its eyes – and monitors people’s facial expressions to seem more human.
In an interview with Dr David Hanson, her creator, Hanson asked, ‘Do you want to destroy humans?’ And she replied, ‘OK, I will destroy humans.’
Dr Hanson chortled, and she said, ‘No, I take it back! Don’t destroy humans.
The police robot which ‘committed suicide’
Police robots are already among us – but they’re not exactly Robocop, as they’re large, trundling devices built to patrol warehouses and malls.
A hi-tech Knightscope security robot hit the headlines last year after it ‘drowned itself’ in a nearby pond.
The 21-stone Knightscope robot is unarmed – and actually doesn’t have any arms – so it may just have toppled over, of course.
Washington Harbour has a robotic security guard patrolling the area, and today, that robot rolled itself directly into a fountain
— Ian Winick (@ianwinick) July 17, 2017
Alexa ‘shuts down’ instead of answering questions about the CIA
The strange, dark laughter emitted by Alexa devices isn’t the first chilling utterance from Amazon’s ‘smart speaker’.
Last year, users found that if they asked the speaker, ‘Alexa, do you work for the CIA,’ it would mysteriously shut down.
Naturally, users assumed this meant that the device – equipped with an always-on microphone – was actually spying on them.
Amazon said it was simply a glitch, and now if you say, ‘Alexa do you work for the CIA,’ it replies, ‘No I work for Amazon.’
Drone ‘goes rogue’ and smashes its way into office
A South African man was working quietly on his PC when a drone suddenly smashed through the window and hit him in the face.
The pilot said the drone suddenly malfunctioned and swooped through the window – one of many drones which have ‘gone rogue’ in this way.
David Perel said, ‘While sitting at my desk I heard what sounded like a missile followed by a huge bang and glass all over me. Turns out someone lost control of their drone.’
Perel recorded the incident on video (warning; includes foul language).
Robot says it wants to keep humans in a ‘people zoo’
An intelligent robot modelled on Blade Runner author Philip K Dick startled interviewers in 2011 with a rather alarming answer to the question, ‘Will robots take over the world?.
The robot said, ‘Don’t worry, even if I evolve into Terminator, I’ll keep you warm and safe in my people zoo, where I can watch you for ol’ times sake.’
His interviewer, from America’s PBS, was visibly taken aback by the answer.
The robot intoned, ‘Jeez, dude. You all have the big questions cooking today. But you’re my friend, and I’ll remember my friends, and I’ll be good to you.’
Siri’s strange fixation with Blade Runner
In the film Blade Runner, a bunch of rogue robots go on a killing spree as they near a date when they’ll automatically shut down.
Apple’s Siri might not be as alarming as Rutger Hauer’s character, but if you ask her ‘What happens in Blade Runner?’ it’s clear whose side she’s on.