It started innocently enough with my first cell phone. Back then we called it a bag phone or a car phone. Now I have a few more high-tech toys:
- Plasma TV in bedroom
- LCD/LED 3-D TV in living room
- Chromecast module for living room TV
- Slingbox so I can watch my home TV from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection
- DirecTV satellite television contract with four receivers
- Harmony universal remote control
- desktop computer in bedroom, with Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition
- laptop computer in living room, with Dragon and a second monitor
- iPad mini, with Siri voice recognition
- iPhone 6 plus, with Siri
- Apple Watch, with Siri
- I also have a Blu-ray player, but I can’t remember the last time I used it
- and my newest addition… Amazon Echo, with Alexa voice recognition
Kim and I visited our friends Darcy and Tim one evening last week. Tim demonstrated his Echo for me. I immediately turned to Kim and said, “I need one of those for Christmas.”
Tim continued to show off his Echo, and before long I adjusted my thinking. “Nevermind Christmas. I need one of those tomorrow.” And I got one the next day.
So, what does it do?
Echo is a combination of a Siri-like device; a high quality, compact speaker; and a smart home controller. I can interact verbally with Echo from anywhere in the living room/dining room/kitchen area. If I leave the bedroom door open, I can even direct her from there. The Echo device has a name, and it is Alexa.
I have Alexa play music from any of several accounts such as Pandora, Amazon Prime music, or my own song files. She manages my To Do list and my shopping list. I set timers and alarms. I listen to radio stations. She can read books to me. I ask all sorts of questions about sports, news, weather, etc., just like with Siri. And, as soon as I buy some interface devices, I’m going to have her start turning on lights and other electrical switches for me. If I do that, goddamnit, I’m calling it a medical expense and deducting it on my taxes!
How is Echo working out for me?
I find Echo to be both an awesome way to feed my need for tech, and yet another voice-activated tool for people who have trouble using their hands – people like me.
But things are getting confusing at my desk. When I send texts using my phone, I employ Siri. When I use my computer, I employ Dragon. For the Echo, it’s Alexa. Each one of them has a slightly different protocol, set of rules, for how to communicate with them. I sometimes find myself speaking Siri to Dragon, or Dragon to Alexa, well, you get the picture. In fact, in the drafting of this blog post, poor Alexa tried to help me out every time I uttered her name to Dragon. Now I feel I owe Alexa an apology. Oops, I did it again.
Yeah, I think I have a problem.