Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Home Tech Echoes

At my house, we're not quite to the point of Scotty in Star Trek IV in our expectations of audible communication with computers.

You remember:

We're getting better, however, and surprisingly Christine, who is usually skeptical of new technology, is leading the way.

Last Christmas, 2015, I asked for a couple of things, and an Amazon Echo was on the list. For most of the holiday season, I thought the Echo-shaped package under the tree must be the fulfillment of that request.

Turned out to be a new martini shaker. Good gift,  just not an Echo.

I re-submitted the request last September and got an Echo for my birthday.

Since then it has moved from the living room, where I spend a lot of time grading and used it for random Wikipedia questions, to the master bedroom where Christine can access it as she gets dressed in the mornings.

Christine's kind of bonded with Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant persona app thingy, in fact. It's to a point I think they talk about me when I'm not around.

Christine's even a little defensive of Alexa if I slip and call her Siri. They may talk about Siri when I'm not around also.

 I now hear weather and news updates being conjured along with a lot of song requests, playlists and calming nature sounds. Also: occasional arguments over station changes in Pandora. Alexa doesn't give up on Willie Nelson easily.

My use of the Echo "skill" Ditty isn't quite perfect either. Echo's features are called skills in this new world nomenclature, and new skills can be periodically applied. Ditty lets you create songs from random phrases, taking your words and assigning tunes from a variety of musical styles. I got a reasonably good country tune out of the words: "Welcome home Christine." Tunes, er, ditties about the cats haven't produced anything I want to save and share via Twitter, though that's an option.

Activating the meditation-themed Thrive "skill," can be challenging at times as well. Makes you need a calming meditation after talking Alexa into activating it.

We progressed recently to being able to  turn on a couple of lights by voice command, something they promise in the ads. That requires smart home plugs, though they're not quite as smart as I'd hoped. Some routines can be established, but you have to sweet talk Alexa for that also.

I thought that was going to throw Christine off, but she's taken to that as well after an unfortunate incident in which she discovered her phone charger had been crowded out of its usual outlet.

We've moved past that, though I think she takes a bit of pleasure in saying: "Alexa, turn on the bedroom lamp" while I'm still asleep.

Things have a ways to go before we get to where the 21st Century home looked in the 20th Century. I'm just hoping they don't turn out like this old Warner Brothers cartoon:


Charles Gramlich said...

I still don't even have a smart phone so I'm pretty far behind the curve

Sidney said...

No smart phone, how do you take pictures or find your way around in the dark? :-)

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