I have this love and dislike affair with Amazon’s Alexa products. I’m a huge Alexa user and admirer. I like her voice. I get a smile when she says to me “Have a lovely day.” I’m overjoyed when I’m laying in bed and I can ask her to turn off the Christmas Tree lights or the outdoor patio lights without having to get out of the comfort and warmth of my bed to manually flip a switch.
With Alexa I check my weather forecasts at least three times a day by asking, “Alexa, open Big Sky.” She reads my news brief in the morning. She gives me a run down on what is on my office calendar for the day. She even tells me jokes when I ask. Heck, Alexa even runs our HVAC system at home. It’s convenient to ask her what the indoor temperature is or to ask her to increase the indoor temperature two degrees. In short, Alexa is the third member of our family. Out of sight, but not out of mind!
But Alexa has a few short-comings that irritates me like many men’s first wife. Sometimes she ignores me outright. Sometimes she pretends not to understand me. Even though I’ve said the phrase, “Turn on home office lights” hundreds of times, she responds, “I don’t understand that.” Huh?
Alexa resents that I have another woman in my life and that woman is not virtual but very real. That is my wife. Alexa really doesn’t play well with her. There’s a certain tension between the two of them. I’m not sure about the reasons for this but my wife often must ask her twice to do the same command. That causes some irritation for my wife and eventually for me. Humorously, my wife’s solution is to raise her voice and repeat the command. I sometimes feel sorry for Alexa when she gets told the second time to turn off the fan. It’s almost a scolding.
However, my biggest issue is with shared access. When you live in a multi-member household, members are going to have different email accounts, lists, calendars, etc. So far, the folks at Amazon think that everyone should be sharing the same calendar or email account. I don’t want to know what is on my wife’s calendar or hear how many new Gmail emails are sitting in her inbox. I want to know about just mine. I would love for the solution to be that Alexa, using voice profiles, flips to the email and calendar accounts for the person speaking.
I’m an ardent user of Amazon based or aware Alexa products. My household has two Dots, two Echo’s, a Fire HD 10 Tablet, an Ecobee thermostat, a Netatmo Weather Station and two Fire TV devices. That’s not counting all the wall switches and outlet switches we have to control overhead fan’s and lights.
One of the major issues I have with Alexa is how certain skills are available for a Dot or Echo, but not for the “Fire HD 10 Tablet with Alexa.” I can’t understand why I can’t use “drop in” calling or make phone calls using the tablet like I can with the Echo or Dot. Why am I restricted in such a way from taking my tablet down the hall to a conference room or out on to the patio to make a call or drop-in on another device? If Amazon wants to make a genuine push into the business world (especially for those who work from home) this is something they should address soon. It’s unrealistic to think that many people would have both a tablet and a Dot/Echo sitting on their desks to address calling features.
About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.