“Hey Alexa…Score me some weed….”

I have an echo dot.

I didn’t buy it. I would never think of buying it. It was a gift.

IMG_0653Amazon Echo is basically an interface into Amazon, to put it simply. It’s a voice activated web appliance. I’m certain the goal of this thing is to simply hook Amazon into your life, mostly to buy crap, and add a few other features. They are always finding inventive ways for you to buy stuff. The worst I’ve seen is the pushbutton that you mash to reorder stuff. So instead of mashing a button device, like a rat pressing a bar for another pellet, to have your chocolate covered pork rinds sent, you can say “Alexa, order more chocolate pork rinds…”

You can also have it run your Amazon TV, play your Amazon music, run your Internet-of-Things (IoT). It’s basically an appliance that you use like Siri on an iPhone. But since it’s inhabiting your space, you don’t have to find it to use it. Simply holler out.

What’s good about it?

Not much. It has a great speaker, so it plays radio and music well. And it is convenient. I mostly use it to listen to talk radio in the mornings, and light lights. I’m to lazy to learn how to tell it do do anything else.

Here’s the deal, I work with voice processing software all day  long. Our software will read your emails to you, it’ll tell you appointments, which you can also create via voice. I still find it easier to use my iPhone for those things, as well as to turn my lights off and one, and order shit from Amazon.

The one time I had our system read me emails was when I drove 20 miles to a partner, totally forgotten who I was there to meet, reached down to discover I left my blackberry (at the time) back home. I could call in on the courtesy phone and say “Get read emails..” And so it was with Alexa. Through an unfortunate series of events (I tried to fix my screen) my iPhone was destroyed. So I could say “Alexa, Turn off the office lights”. That said, I simply could have manually turned them off.

What’s bad?

All those devices you want to turn off and on? You need connector software and devices. I picked Phillips HUE lightbulbs, since they are ubiquitous at the local Home Depot. To get them to work, you need a HUE bridge, and app. Phillips doesn’t sell smart plugs, so I had to get another device, and another app. Just because it says “Works with Alexa” doesn’t mean it does so natively. You need to tie the apps (and their logins) to Amazon. You still need the apps on your phone, which are often faster. I’ve had a few times when I’ve said “Alexa, turn off the porch light”, she says “OK” and nothing happens.

No matter what it is, and where you send your creds, I”m not a huge fan of a third party having ties to other parts of my digital world. But that’s me.

Here’s another – Not everyone is into the IoT scene. Alexa, more often than not, ignores my wife. Who then simply turns the light off manually, which makes the whole thing useless. Especially when you’ve programmed lights to come on and off while away.

Can’t do that if the missus has turned them off.

Do I think Amazon is spying on me?

No. Not any more than they are already.

What a waste that would be. I’m certain they track purchases and which are ordered via Alexa. But snooping? No. The product I work with day in and day out records as well. It records words it doesn’t understand. If it says “I didn’t understand…” it has recorded a wav file so if a tech needs to analyze what happened they can hear it for themselves.

Which is what I’m certain Alexa is doing. Voice Recognition Technology can be emotionally challenging. Ever catch yourself yelling at the call center’s system when you’ve called in? You don’t want that to happen when people are buying stuff. Ever. Besides, consider scale. Consider the infrastructure to store all that data, all that voice, and the amount of dough it would cost to mine it.

Safe bet it isn’t happening.

So I’ll stand by my opening. It’s useful to some extent. Still doubt I’d have bought it.