If my friend says “Alexa, where is Dave’s pizza in Boston” Alexa will look it up and announce the answer. “Alexa, what are the film times at the Dedham cinema?” Or “Alexa, what’s the weather?” Oh yeah, it also streams music though the speakers are not the world’s best.
It got me wondering whether this is something I need? As a late adopter (I got a microwave YEARS after the rest of the world, ditto a cell phone; finally THIS Christmas I got a Kindle) I’m sure I don’t. And I shudder at the notion of driverless car and drones delivering packages to in my neighborhood. But maybe, in time... who knows.
So, are you eager to get yourself an Echo so you don’t have to get up off the couch to find your smartphone? Do you say driverless cars and drones, bring’em on? Or feh, who needs 'em. Or NO NO NO!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, gosh, I am in love with Siri. I keep "her" by my desk when I write, and I'll say: "Hey, Siri, what's the temperature in Dayton in October?" And while she looks it up, I keep writing. Seriously, it's like having a research assistant. The other day at the bank machine, my phone was in my purse, and as I was doing a deposit, I remembered something I had to do later that I would surely forget.
Hey Siri! I called out. (Luckily no one else was around, since I was talking to my purse, after all.)
Yes? she said. I answered: "Remind me to (do whatever it was.)"
"Okay, I'll remind you," she said.
And she did!
Love love love.
I use Siri ALL the time. If I have to cook a 4.6 pound roast: Hey Siri! How much is 4 point 6 times 18 (minutes?)
Hey Siri! What time does the Patriots game start?
Don't even get me started.
Driverless car, no. Drivers are bad enough.
But an Echo or a Dot? Yes, indeedy. I would get one this instant, but I think they are sold out.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: We were early adopters of Echo, on the waiting list for the very first release, what, a couple of years ago now. Alexa lives in our kitchen, and I have a Dot (the little satellite) on my desk in the sunporch and one upstairs in our bedroom.
What did we do before Alexa??? She runs our sprinkler system and our thermostats, plays a huge selection of music, gives us news and weather and all sorts of information, and, for me, the very best thing is that she plays Audible books. I'd never listened much to audio books--because I'm deaf in one ear, earbuds are never comfortable. But now I am hooked!! And Alexa lets me switch between books! (Alexa also reads Kindle books, by the way. It's a little weird, but you get used to it.)
My daughter has Alexa too, and Alexa plays nature sleep sounds for Wren at bedtime. It occurred to us on Christmas that Wren is going to wonder how Alexa lives in both houses... And of course we talk to Alexa as if she were a real person.
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh you scared me with that title Hallie! Siri and I don't get along, I'm sorry to say. And she criticizes me if I say so! Although Debs makes the Echo sound very very good, I'm not sure we have the technical expertise to set it up. We can barely manage our TV remote. What do you think Debs, if we don't have an in-home computer expert, could we do this?
DEBS: Roberta, you can do it. The Echo is not hard to set up, and if you have any problems we can walk you through it. I just got my first Whispersync book--you can switch back and forth between reading on Kindle and listening on Audible (on my Echo and Dots)-- and it is SO cool!!!!
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We kids got the Echo for our parents two Christmases ago, and they seem to love Alexa. My mom primarily uses it to play Pandora, and my dad has found apps that make fart noises and sounds that freak the cat out. I'm not sure that's what the engineers intended for their miracle device, but whatever makes them happy.
My sister and brother-in-law had one first; in our family, Barb and Dan are the early adapters. They were the first to have wifi, first to use GPS, first to wear Fitbits, etc. It doesn't hurt that Dan is a website guy.
Up here in Maine we are LATE adapters: I just got my first smartphone this August. I am bemuse by ads for smart lights and thermostats and refrigerators: besides the complexity of setting up space-age tech in a 200 year old house, why can't you just walk over to the thermostat and turn it up yourself?
One aspect of assisted living I could use, however, is the ability to remember things. I may have to get an Echo just so I can say, "Alexa, I'm putting my glasses on the counter." If she can tell me where they are when I wander into the kitchen again, I'm sold!
HALLIE: What about the rest of you... Digital lackey? Driverless cars?? Drones??? are you reveling in wondrous wireless assistants or would you rather just do it yourself?