There’s a new woman in my life

Plugged in

A while back I wrote about Amazon’s Echo and how I thought it would be the beginning of the introduction of many useful digital assistance devices.  When I last wrote about it, my reporting was based on reading and real time evaluation using a friend’s device.  As of last week the Echo has moved into the Dominic household and is rapidly developing a long term presence.

 

What doesn’t she do?

Echo is hard to describe since it does so much.  It is a music player, personal assistant, home automation hub, and much more. As I said in my earlier reviews, it is as close to the computer aboard the Star Ship Enterprise as you can get for less than 200 bucks.

The cylindrical device measures about 10 inches high or about the size of a can of tennis balls.  

All of the interactions with the Echo are done with voice commands. The Echo connects via your home Wi-Fi to the Internet and also to various devices in your home. 

Since she came to live with us (it is a she and her name is Alexa) she has become a very helpful member of the family.  I have programmed her to control lights and heat. 

So just by saying, “Alexa, turn on my office heat,” the electric heater in my basement home office goes on. 

Because it is hands free and always listening for commands, kitchen chores are made easier.  For instance, if you are in the middle of a recipe and find yourself with sticky hands and forgetful of how many ounces are in a pint, just ask Alexa. There is no typing on a keyboard and no tablet to touch.  

 

She’s great with lists

Perhaps one of the most useful, albeit mundane, features is the shopping list app. Adding items to your list is as easy as saying “Alexa, add butter to my shopping list.”  

The list is sent to designated mobile phones, in this case my phone and my wife’s phone. So when either of us are at the store we have an accurate list of needed items.  

Once either of us deletes the item from the list, it is deleted from the other’s phone. 

You can ask Alexa to play a specific radio station or music from a specific artist. She will find the latest news broadcasts, give you weather and even look at your calendar and report what you have scheduled for any day.  

If you tell her to schedule a meeting, she will add it to your calendar or tell you if that time and date are already taken.

I am still finding things that she can do and Amazon promises to continually upgrade her capabilities.  

So it looks like we now have another “woman” in the house but I don’t think my wife will mind.  After all, she invited her.  Alexa was my birthday gift.

 

Jack Dominic, a Harrison Twp. resident, is Executive Director of the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting and an adjunct professor at UC.  You can read previously published articles at www.jacksnotesandbits.blogspot.com

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