Saturday, July 11, 2015

My New Friend Alexa

So I never really cottoned to Siri. Every time I tried to use her on my iPhone, the results were, well, bad. The first time was when we were leaving NYC after my daughter’s college graduation last year—the Friday before Memorial Day. The ceremony ran long and it took almost 2 hours to get out of the city—and then the NJ Turnpike and every other highway was crawling. Siri was no help whatsoever when I asked about traffic options:  I got movie suggestions, questions to my questions, and basically, frustration created more frustration.  I ended up saying mean things to her. I thought it would feel good to vent at her, but it didn’t—because she didn’t feel at all human—I didn’t think she was even listening.

Back in February or some other cold time earlier this year, the Amazon Echo caught my eye and I thought, what the heck, that sounds interesting. But I failed to note that it wouldn’t arrive until the end of May, and when I tried to cancel the order sometime around April, it couldn't be cancelled.  And then I forgot all about it.
Right around Memorial Day 2015, the Echo arrived. And then it sat in its box for 6 weeks, in the kitchen, because, well, I’ve been busy.

My guy mentioned the black box again this morning, so I said, “You know, if you find time today, maybe you can get it going for us.”

When I got home tonight, he told me to ask “Alexa, what’s the weather?”

I did, and a pleasant female voice gave us the weather report. He then asked, “Alexa, what’s the traffic like?” and she gave him a traffic update for the area. Then he said, “Alexa, play Happy” and she started playing the song by Pharrell Williams (he connected the Echo to his Amazon Music account). I thanked her and she said it was her pleasure. It went on and on from there. She was able to answer all our questions, including sharing the latest NPR news stories. At first, we were softballing the questions, then we tried to stump her. But she is a pro.

I have more faith in Alexa (I'm already calling her by her command prompt rather than "the Echo") than I do in Siri. Alexa had me at "Hello." I’m going to enjoy having her around. She gets me.

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