Got an Echo Dot for Christmas.
The jury, however, is still out as to whether the Alexa-enabled wireless speaker will remain a valued member of our family moving forward.
Game night with friends marked our New Year’s Eve celebration. I have to admit, it was enjoyable to take turns asking Alexa to “play” a variety of songs throughout the night. It’s also convenient to get quick answers to such pressing questions as “Who sang ‘The Purple People Eater’” or “Who was the 25th president?”
One member of our group jokingly asked Alexa to ignore my song requests, and the computer curtly replied that she would do no such thing. Alexa 1, house guest 0.
On the topic of which is better — country or rock music, a common topic of debate at such gatherings — she tactfully wouldn’t commit to either side.
There are benefits of the device, such as easy, quick access to music and other information. However, there are security concerns as well.
“Even if Amazon doesn’t do anything questionable with your Echo interactions, it does store them in the cloud, which isn’t totally hacker-proof,” David Emm, principal security researcher for Kaspersky Lab, said in a Forbes story last year. “The Echo communicates via an internet connection through a home Wi-Fi network, which unless secure could potentially become compromised.”
Although our conversations at home wouldn’t be of much interest to information-seekers such as law enforcement, they may help advertisers gather data on our needs and interests. Such targeted marketing efforts could be seen as positive or negative, depending on your perspective. But Big Brother listening in on some of our debates, political or otherwise, remains a concern.
As for our developing relationship with Alexa, two days into the new year I was pouring a cup of coffee at the kitchen counter when I heard, “Reminder: Drink water today.” I wasn’t sure whether the prompt was requested by my wife or the result of synching my Garmin wristband to the device. Either way, the command made for a startling beginning to the day’s itinerary.
Nevertheless, there are benefits of the device, such as the aforementioned easy access to music and other information. A computer telling me my wife will be home from work soon is overkill, but knowing the temperature outside could be useful information. I’m sure there are other benefits as well that I have not yet discovered.
Alexa, however, is on a short leash.
If she chastises me for not making my bed or forgetting to take out the garbage, all bets are off. This could prove to be a short-term relationship.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor