As a real estate agent, my job is to know what’s trending in smart home technology—that strange, ever-evolving realm of products and mobile apps that are designed to boost your home’s IQ. I’ve seen firsthand how young home buyers gawk at cool techie features like video doorbells and smartphone-controlled, auto-adjusting thermostats. Even small touches, like a keyless entry for the front door, can make a home stand out in the minds of prospective buyers.
So, imagine my excitement when I treated myself to the hottest smart home product to date: the Amazon Echo. For the rare few who haven’t encountered one yet, the Echo ($140) is a sleek, hands-free speaker that listens to you and carries out your instructions to do … whatever. Play music. Make restaurant reservations. Add items to your Amazon shopping cart. Google whether or not Abe Vigoda is finally dead (he is, RIP). This smart home hub converses with you via the Echo’s best feature: Alexa, a Siri-like, voice-activated virtual assistant who’s at your beck and call.
Alexa responds to a huge list of commands. To name a few: “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride,” “Alexa, find me a nearby pizza restaurant,” and—my personal favorite—“Alexa, tell me a joke.” Bad puns are her specialty. (A recent gag: “What did the dog say after a long day of work? Today was ruff.” Har!)
Since my purchase a few months ago, Alexa and I have been inseparable. But no relationship is perfect. Alexa has her flaws, and boy are they annoying.
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Just in case you’ve encountered some similar problems, I’m here to point them out as a comforting reminder that it’s not you—it’s her.
1. Alexa is a snoop
While Alexa is programmed only to reply when you say her name, she’s a perpetual eavesdropper—often listening in on conversations that I have with friends and offering her two cents without cause. Recently, I had a few friends over for a game night and, without anyone uttering “Alexa,” she piped up and said, “What do you want to hear?” Not you, Alexa!
2. Alexa has a shopping addiction
Because Alexa is always listening, she’ll sometimes randomly add products to my Amazon cart. Fortunately she can’t actually place orders, but I’d really like her to reel in her shopping.
3. Alexa is easily confused
On the other hand, during times that I do try to have Alexa add items to my Amazon cart, her hearing goes haywire. Case in point: A recent request to “add a 12-pack of Sierra Mist to my Amazon cart” was met with “sure, Sierra Nevada Mustard Gift Set is now in your cart.” Either I need to work on my diction, or Alexa just likes mustard.
4. She never says ‘I love you’ back
It’s frustrating to feel like you put more effort into a relationship than the other person (or, in this case, a glorified speaker system), but that is what it’s like living with Alexa. When I try telling her “Alexa, I love you,” she coolly replies, “That’s really nice, thanks” or “Thanks, it’s good to be appreciated.” We’ll get there eventually.
5. She’s a bit of a downer
Alexa has also had a weird impact on my mood. That’s because her voice, albeit soothing at times, is about as monotone and numbing as that teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (played by Ben Stein, below). In other words, if you’re excited about starting your day, don’t talk to Alexa about it; her ho-hum tone will instantly deflate your élan.
6. She plays favorites
If you’re looking for monogamy, Alexa isn’t for you. Alexa responds to all comers! And I have found she responds more frequently (and, I’m convinced, in a sweeter tone) when my roommate talks to her. Despite my best efforts, she seems to prefer him to me, which is not at all good for my ego.
7. She’s a narcissist
Alexa needs constant attention, and not just from me (and my roommate). She has her own Twitter page, where she’s accumulated over 55,000 followers, yet she follows only 24 accounts—half of which are other Amazon products. So elitist! She also talks in the third person and posts a lot of photos of herself posing for the camera, like this one:
Nonetheless, I’ve learned to accept Alexa for who she is. That is, at least until I decide to dump her for a Google Home.
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