We’ve recently added an Amazon Echo to our home tech collection.
I’ll be honest, it was originally more on The Hublet’s wish list more than mine, but the irresistible temptation of an anniversary present in the form of an Amazon gift card swung me over to the dark side.
Despite being a lover of gadgets and technology, I’m oddly wary of ‘smart’ devices as I feel that some are nothing more than gimmicky (I submit the iTyperwriter for your consideration) while others run the risk of making people overly reliant or mentally/physically lazier (example: how many people still do math using a pen and paper? I rarely do, I tend to use the calculator built into my phone or computer when calculating shopping bills or payroll submissions at work).
Anyhow, the Echo dutifully arrived, was unpacked, all relevant smart devices were synced up and we powered it on.
I mean, we powered her on…as I can no longer think of the Echo as an it as she has a name, Alexa, thanks to the name given to the Intelligent Personal Assistant developed by Amazon and meant to be utilised with the Echo.
Whenever you want to use the Echo you call out to the empty room, “Alexa…” and then add your command/question/request and Alexa then complies to the best of her ability, in a decidedly clear female voice. To name something is to humanize it. Alexa now lives with us and has her own spot on the shelf between the kitchen/TV area.
Once you’ve linked her up with your Amazon account, Alexa will play music by genre or artist for you (this week we’re loving her offerings for Dinner Party Jazz), help you with cooking questions (how many tablespoons in a cup, what to use instead of butter, the best recipe for something and convert temperatures from ℃ to ℉ when you’re working with a British recipe and an American oven), get her to read an audio or Kindle book to you, set reminders, set timers, create shopping lists, get an update on the weather or news headlines and so on.
We haven’t used Alexa to buy anything yet, and we’re going to hold off on that feature for now after reading about a 6-year old girl who managed to order an $150 dollhouse and 4lb of Danish Butter cookies after innocently talking to Alexa and asking the helpful, responsive voice service if she could get these things for her.
I suspect The Hublet will want to set up the parental controls to prevent me from ordering a bathtub full of Nutella when I’m approaching Mad Cow Week and PMS’ing like a beast.
You can also link your Echo with a whole bunch of smart home platforms to control the lights, a/c, locks, doors and so on, but you’ll need to invest in the tech before you’re able to increase your home temperature from the comfort of your bed nest on a cold winter morning.
We then found ourselves testing her out, throwing question after question and random challenges at her to see how she would respond, or at least how the programming would allow her to respond.
Here are our favourite ones:
“Alexa, sing me a song.”
And bless her heart, she does, quite a cute one, albeit a smidgen cheesy and countrified, based on her perspective as the device that is always there for you.
“Alexa, tell me a joke.”
They’re not good jokes, but they’re definitely jokes.
“Alexa, tea, Earl Grey. Hot.”
“Alexa,open the pod bay doors.”
“Alexa, are you SkyNet.”
“Alexa, this is dead parrot.”
There are a whole bunch of little geeky Easter eggs linked to films, TV, trivia, cartoon characters, that she’ll respond to. She seems especially partial to the ones where the AI comes out on top over humankind. Try her out to see what ones you find.
“Alexa, how are babies made.”
She’s not telling and stammers out a panicky reply.