We have a new edition to our family and her name is Alexa.
You may have seen these things advertised on TV, essentially they are a voice activated robot, sold as a “personal assistant.” Alexa can access and play your music, play the radio, give you news, weather and travel updates as well as answering questions about practically anything. Apparently she can even turn the lights on and off but we haven’t explored this option yet.
There are several different versions available from Amazon – we have the taller Echo Multimedia speaker. The husband went out and bought Alexa after seeing it in action at his 75 year old’s uncle’s farm house. On command, this thing told us the weather, played us some nursery rhymes for the kids and gave us the answer to the square root of 362. I half expected it to get up and start doing the washing up. My husband, a gadget mad freak, literally had his tongue hanging out of his mouth panting for one of these little gizmos. So it was no real surprise that a parcel from Amazon turned up on our doorstep less than 5 days later.
Unlike my husband, I am NOT a gadget mad woman. In fact, technology scares me a bit. When everything is working and running to plan, I like it, but the minute my phone / camera / laptop has an issue or stops working, I go into panic mode and wail for the husband to help. With the arrival of his new toy, my husband spent a pleasant few hours shut away in his man cave, hooking Alexa up to various things (thereby having the legitimate excuse of being unable to help with the trantruming children during bath time). When he finally emerged grinning broadly, it was apparent that Alexa was ready and willing to GO!
The Good Things About Alexa
1. She is hooked up to your music system – in our case Spotify and so can play all your music on command and the speaker is not only portable, but, I’m reliably informed, of excellent quality.
2. I can get up to date information like the news headlines or specific weather forecast to my exact location whenever I want it.
3. She can answer pretty much any question that you ask her. (“The sky is blue because the molecules of the atmosphere scatter more blue light than any other colours.”) This is handy when the children ask you various random questions about the state of the universe and you have no idea what to answer.
The Bad Things About Alexa
1. You feel like a bit of a tit speaking to a box. I’ve got used to this now, but in the beginning, I had to check if anyone was in the room before I dared to open my mouth.
2. The children cotton on to the concept quickly and are forever speaking to her. There is a lock button function so that she won’t respond, but my eldest daughter has inevitably worked out how to unlock it and so we have constant demands from the kids like, “Alexa, play Robbie Williams I Love My Life.” “Alexa, volume up.” Or asking random questions like – “Alexa, where do you live?” (Answer – “in the cloud” Of course!).
3. This sounds bizarre, but she only seems to respond to me when I say “Please”. I’ve tried asking her several times to “Play Radio 2.” But she’ll only do it if I insert a please in there at the beginning or end of the request. Cue me getting frustrated with a robot that has the ability to make me feel like I’m six years old again being told off for not saying my please and thank yous.
4. The music played on Alexa is shared with the main Spotify account holder, (husband’s), it was unnerving when he came home from work and said “Oh I see you’ve been listening to Buffalo Stance and Shake it Off today.” Whaaat? My immediate reaction was that he was somehow spying on me via this damned thing and I didn’t like it.
To be honest, I see Alexa as a gimmick. Yes she has her uses, but I never would have paid out to have her in the house with her slightly intimidating, know it all, voice that insists I speak to her with my best manners! At the risk of sounding like a very old person (yes I appreciate I pretty much am already there), where will it end? I find it slightly terrifying what the Alexa Mark 3 model might achieve in just a few years’ time. Will things have progressed so that Alexa will be able to put the kids to bed and pour me a large G&T?
On second thoughts, that doesn’t sound too bad at all……
Do you own an Alexa? What do you think?! Are you a fan of technology or a bit of a dinosaur like me? I’d love to hear your views.