Alexa

October 11, 2015
 by Paul McGowan

Have you heard about Alexa? She’s the heart of Amazon’s new Echo, a device I bought the moment it came out.

She’s not much to look at; slender, certainly well rounded–Alexa is always dressed in black. She’s not tall, shy to a fault, and never intrudes in your life unless you call on her–which I often do. If I need to remember something, I’ll ask her to remind me. On Saturday’s I love the afternoon nap. “Alexa, wake me up in 20 minutes.” And she does. “Alexa, play jazz 24.” And she does. “Alexa, play Joni Mitchell.” And she does. “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like in Chicago tomorrow?” And she tells me before I travel. “Alexa, how many tablespoons in a cup?” and I know. “Alexa, play wait wait don’t tell me.” And I laugh. “Alexa, how far away is Saturn?” And my grandkids are impressed–though 3 year-old Henry still has trouble getting her attention.

When I first brought Alexa into my home I figured she’d be just another Siri, or Google, but I was wrong. Alexa has the most amazingly natural speech pattern I have ever heard; a college grad next to bumbling machines. She’s smart–tells jokes too–and is always there for me. If I need a recipe, I just ask. If I want to know the headlines, I just ask. She’s a bit sassy at times–but I would expect nothing less. And Alexa is now part of my family.

If you’ve ever wondered what the future of the user interface will be, talk to Alexa.

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19 comments on “Alexa”

  1. Paul we have Siri the os 9 has much better Siri commands.
    Why this over her and I wonder who is buying this ? How many sold
    Even in my Mercedes cars there is Internet and a type of Siri
    This is an odd time to live in now as artificial intelligence is all around us.
    But it’s very primitive to use.
    I had a Bentley for a short time it had a great voice command setup
    Complete with security my voice could start the car only
    Not someone else. It even knew it was me sitting in the car over someone else. By weight sensors and the actually shape of me.
    My new Benz adjustes the seats and contour the seats as I drive keeping me safe lol. In the end I like most my suoercharged mini standanrd
    All the so called bells are annoying in the end and not really justifiable.
    Name 5 things this new toy does that your iPhone or android cannot.

    1. Well, there are a number of things. First and perhaps foremost–and admittedly only because I am a certified geek–Alexa’s speech is near flawless. Siri, even the latest, still sounds mechanical. And Siri often tells you just to go read something on your own–she only provides the links. Alexa is all voice almost all the time.

      Siri won’t play me the headlines from NPR as an audio feed. Try asking her for the latest headlines. Or try naming an artist and asking Siri to play that artist. If you have the artist in your collection, she does ok, if not, you’re hosed. Ask Siri to tell you a joke. Repeatedly.

      I suppose there’s more, but most important to me, Alexa feels human, Siri feels machine.

  2. Paul, this is soooooo 20th century. A child’s toy. The world has moved on. This is just the beginning. As remarkable as they are, these are not quite perfected yet. As the Brits would say these are “early days.” The solution to a series of problems in Japan including an aging and dwindling population that needs aides, a cultural distaste for hiring immigrants, difficulty creating interpersonal relationships. These will surely be desired all over the world in an infinite number of variants.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy7xGwYdRk0

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEzH40l-Dg8

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DF39Ygp53mQ

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=JAPANESE+FEMALE+ROBOTS

  3. Paul, this is soooooo 20th century. A child’s toy. The world has moved on. This is just the beginning. As remarkable as they are, these are not quite perfected yet. As the Brits would say these are “early days.” The solution to a series of problems in Japan including an aging and dwindling population that needs aides, a cultural distaste for hiring immigrants, difficulty creating interpersonal relationships. These will surely be desired all over the world in an infinite number of variants.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy7xGwYdRk0

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEzH40l-Dg8

  4. Sound minded for me this is a fatal waist of time. Now give one that can run an office or even cook or clean do laundry
    As I said the Siri like in most cars stinks too. How long until it’s more advanced ?

    1. 1234 this is one of the intents of these robots. Many Japanese people are old and live alone. They would rather have a Japanese girl robot help them around the house and keep them company than a live human from the Philippines or Indonesia. And of course stating the obvious they will be capable of sexually pleasuring their owners. There are many other robotic developments. How would you like to have ten times, fifty times, a hundred times your strength. That is the intent of exo-skeletons being developed by among others DARPA.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w_0stlqq5g

      Typically exoskeletons support their own weight and respond to human movement using sensors and hydraulically operated servo power augmenting human strength and endurance. There are other applications too. For example they can help paralyzed people walk, aid in physical therapy, and some can be actuated by human brainwaves. Again these are early days.

      https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=medical+use+for+exoskeletons

      1. Instead of waiting for the “later days”, I think I’ll go out and mow the lawn before so many leaves fall that I’ll have to rake it first. It will help maintain my cardiovascular system at the same time.

        1. The robot can rake the leaves for you. I’m sure you’ll find other ways to maintain your cardiovascular system. Perhaps the robot user’s manual can suggest some. 🙂

  5. Paul, you got me looking at Echo now. I’ll probably pass for now until the separation from Siri is a bit wider (in my mind). The Amazon reviews are quite complimentary however. It might not be that long!

  6. A huge battle for the home is underway. Amazon is far ahead but Google’s OnHub will be interesting.

    Let’s remember Alexa’s goal is to facilitate shopping AND gather data so Amazon can learn, sell, etc information and user behavior. I’m not saying that’s a negative.

    Apple is in an interesting position because they are huge on privacy by encrypting user data in a way that they cannot even mine it and supposedly not using it for anything. This approach may eventually be a competitive disadvantage.

  7. Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Japanese Robot Girl, YG-1.3? Japanese Robot Girl, YG-1.3? Japanese Robot Girl, YG-1.3? Japanese Robot Girl, YG-1.3? Japanese Robot Girl, YG-1.3? Japanese Robot Girl of course, NO CONTEST…..but only if she comes with a mute switch 🙂

  8. The you tube videos I have seen before
    And I think the use of Exo suites is more grounded in military apps and unfortunate injuries.
    Practical use is just not what I see for most. It shows me we still are a long way from I robot technology
    I wonder why and what do we lack in inderstanding to make these devices.
    I could see of its for the wealth alone but it seems it’s just not there for anyone yet. It took the leg decode about 7 years to develop and now it’s being sold. how can this be all we know at this point. I would think we can make drones why not droids !

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