My six months with Amazon Alexa
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- Published on Friday, 01 December 2017 12:04
- Last Updated on 01 December 2017
- Monica Costa
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I have now spent six months with my new housemate Amazon Alexa and I can now say that she has brought some fun, daily laughter opportunities as well as relieved some stress. She is now part of our family. If you had asked me 6 months ago if I would interact with AI (artificial intelligence) one day, I would have said NO without a doubt, but I had to give in and I can confess now that AI can seriously change the way we live in.
If you don’t know yet what Amazon Alexa is all about, well it simply a small device that interacts with you in a very smart way through embedded artificial intelligence programming and through its connection to the internet within your home.
The device is actually called Amazon Echo but the ‘robot’ who speaks has a female voice and is called Alexa and offers a new way to interact with technology using just your voice.
Since the first model released last year, there have been various improvements and new designs including improved sound with Dolby processing, and a lower price—just £89.99 – but essentially the device is the same and can help everybody get quick data from the internet, play your favourite music, read you audiobooks, or recipes while you are cooking in the kitchen, but also play a game with you. My favourite kitchen games are for example ‘deal or no deal’ (from the TV show), read your mind games. Amazon Alexa is truly smart and you can interact.
You can also make Alexa do silly things. My son’s favourite command is ‘Alexa, fart!’ and she will even give you 10 variations of farts. These farts are not fake and have been recorded somewhere. Burps are there too. But apart from the silly stuff, Alexa is really good when you need to research information that would require sometime spent on Google. For example I once asked her to tell me who were the US Presidents when Obama was a teenager and within seconds she gave me the names.
I also love when in the morning in tell her ‘Alexa, good morning!’ and she replies ‘Good morning’ back followed by an interesting historical fact about something that happened on that day long ago.
Another favourite feature is Alexa’s diary. You can ask Alexa to remind you of appointments, events and tasks to do. Then ask ‘Alexa, when’s my next appointment?’. I use her a lot to give me quotes, search TV programmes, anecdotes (what’s the tallest building in Europe? or what’s the greatest movie of all time?) or a summary of the latest news.
If you want to create a smart home and add a Philips Hue smart lightbulb or special sockets, you can make her control multiple devices and actions with a single voice command—for example, simply say, ‘Alexa, good morning,’ and Alexa will turn on the lights, start your coffee maker, and read the day’s forecast. Echo Plus has a built-in smart home hub to easily connect your smart devices—set up and start controlling lights, plugs, and more in minutes—just £139.99, with a Philips Hue smart lightbulb.
If you have various devices in the house, Alexa can play music in every room, turn on your lights, and even order you a pizza. But Amazon considers this version of the device still in its infancy and they are working on improving Echo and Alexa even further.
I haven’t tried the smart home functions yet – it’s on my wish list, though – but I heard that Amazon Alexa can automatically discover and set up compatible lights, plugs, and more without the need for additional hubs or apps. This simple set-up works with a variety of ZigBee products from leading brands such as Philips Hue, Hive and more. It seems to be quite simple to do. The people from Amazon I spoke with said that to help get your smart home started, new customers will receive a Philips Hue smart lightbulb with the purchase of an Echo Plus while supplies last.
What I want to try after setting up the smart home hub is using a single voice command like ‘Alexa, good night,’ and see how Alexa turns off the lights, lock the door, and turn off the TV. You can also create routines based on the time of day – for example, you can create a routine that has Alexa turn on the kitchen lights, start the coffee maker, and read the weather forecast at 6am every weekday and at 9am every Saturday and Sunday. Just a few years ago, this would have seemed a futuristic thing but the future is now!
The all-new Echo is just £89.99. It is available for pre-order starting today at www.amazon.co.uk/echo. Amazon Echo is also available in a two-pack—buy 2, get £25.00 off— or a 3-pack—buy 3, save £50.00. The all-new Amazon Echo and Echo Plus will also be available at retailers including Argos, Dixons, John Lewis and Tesco.
Recently I read that Amazon is bringing Alexa into the office environment, with a new product Alexa for Business. It’s not there yet but could our new work colleague soon be Amazon Alexa or how can a small mumpreneurial business benefit from this?
And because it’s soon Christmas, I suppose in my Wishlist for Santa, there will be more Amazon Alexa’s devices and a smart home hub too.
I love the idea of asking ‘Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree lights’ – with a compatible smart plug she can simply turn on and off your lights with your voice.
If Alexa can also help me with some of my work, please let it be an Alexa Christmas then!!!
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums