By David Gracey
A year ago, Santa Claus brought me Amazon’s latest consumer creation, the Echo. This black, cylindrical-shaped device promises to change our lives for the better. I like gadgets, so I thought the Gracey family needed one. I have been pleasantly surprised with the results, although there have been a few shouting matches that almost ended with the Echo meeting its maker.
To enable the Echo, simply say “Alexa” and then state your command. She does a better-than-average job of figuring out what you want. As with any technology device, the more simple the command, the more likely to get the desired outcome. If she doesn’t understand, she’ll tell you so.
It is a bit unnerving to think that Alexa is always listening. As such, she would not be a welcome guest in, say, a hospital operating room, where patient information could be recorded.
One amusing thing is our 18-year-old is named Alex, so the Echo hears us and thinks we are issuing a command. The results can be amusing. I could change her wake-word, but then I’d be missing out on all the fun.
Alexa’s accent can also be changed. I like the Australian accent but was vetoed by the family.
Here are some everyday ways to take advantage of the Echo:
Check the Weather
“Alexa, what’s the weather tomorrow?” is probably the single most used command we issue to Alexa. She will quickly give you the high, low, and outlook. You can also quickly get weather in other cities. “Alexa, weather in Palo Alto, California next weekend” is a great way to determine if you need to pack a jacket with you.
Alexa can play just about any song ever recorded. “Alexa, play some Imagine Dragons” will get you a nice tune. You can also tie it into your Spotify account and tell Alexa to play any of your playlists. Talk about the cloud changing the world!
Set a Timer
This might seem like a small thing, but having a voice-activated timer in the kitchen is a real timesaver. “Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes” is easy to say, and she’s on it. You can also get quick conversions for measurements, like the number of cups in a quart or tablespoons in a stick of butter.
Hear Bad Jokes
Some of my sixth-grader’s favorite Alexa commands involve asking Alexa to tell a joke. Although the jokes are rarely any good, you have to give her credit for originality and a never-ending source of new bad jokes.
What do you use Alexa for?