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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Alexa

Do any of you, folks, have the so-called Alexa? Do you find it useful? Other than telling you the weather forecast, what does it do? 

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12 thoughts on “Alexa

  1. I think if you hook it up to the right kind of system, you can essentially have voice-activated television, phone, home security, heating/cooling, etc. I know it can play music and order things on Amazon for you. I think it can also give you directions to a place (based on commercials). Other than that, I have no idea. Neither I nor anyone I know has one.

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    • This doesn’t sound like much. Or like anything.

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      • Program your own music via using a CD recorder or tape deck to copy from records or CD tracks.
        And learn how to read a map.
        And don’t let Alexa instruct you on how to wipe yourself after taking a dump. You can determine for yourself how much tissue paper you’ll need and how many times to go over the same areas. And there are no “proper hand positions” to use when wiping either.

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  2. Shakti on said:

    Amazon’s Alexa started ordering people dollhouses after hearing its name on TV
    Earlier this year:

    One recent instance occurred in Dallas, Texas earlier this week, when a six-year-old asked her family’s new Amazon Echo “can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” The device readily complied, ordering a KidKraft Sparkle mansion dollhouse, in addition to “four pounds of sugar cookies.” The parents quickly realized what had happened and have since added a code for purchases. They have also donated the dollhouse a local children’s hospital.

    The story could have stopped there, had it not ended up on a local morning show on San Diego’s CW6 News. At the end of the story, Anchor Jim Patton remarked: “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,’” According to CW6 News, Echo owners who were watching the broadcast found that the remark triggered orders on their own devices.

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    • Funny. 🙂

      It’s like having an Amazon shopping app that’s always on? I have no idea who’d want that, especially with small kids around.

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    • A parent of a friend has one, and whenver she is talking about it, she has to refer to it as the “A-L-E-X-A” (much like one would say something like “we’re going to go on a w-a-l-k later” if they didn’t want to get their dog all excited about going outside right then), lest it do something she doesn’t want it to do. I have exactly no interest in owning such a thing, though this does make a moderately entertaining case to at least own one enough to dismantle it in parts and rewire it to a random talking fish… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3TNGDVOMA4

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  3. We have it and usually have it play music for us when we all eat together (tell it to play such-and-such song by such and such, and it’s hooked to play from Spotify by default; it plays on the small bluetooth speaker we have downstairs). I think people will occasionally ask it/her about the weather and to look something up, but honestly I don’t think it’s indispensable by any means.

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    • I’d be concerned that, in the case of oldies, classic rock or classic country, the versions of the songs played would be either remakes or reject takes instead of the original 45-RPM singles or radio versions one remembers first hearing.
      These “A.I.” systems are very clinical—-they only go solely by title and name of recording act. They have no memories of their own and cannot detect “wrong versions” of said songs.

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  4. Socal dendrite on said:

    We were given one as a gift a year ago. I was fairly skeptical at first and immediately disabled the Amazon purchasing option. However, the music has proved a boon with my children. I have Amazon Prime, which comes with a lot of songs, so it is very easy to say “Alexa, play “Hello” by Adele” (for example), and it starts up and the kids go off to dance. No need for me to fiddle about on my phone setting up playlists etc. This is especially great when my husband is out of town and I come in with the kids and need to cook dinner asap. My 4 year old can now request songs by himself too, which is great (he asks us first, so this is not an annoying feature!). Other things we have used occasionally with the kids: “Alexa, tell me a joke”, the 20 questions game, and a verbal adventure game. But mostly the music. I doubt we would have bought one ourselves, but I have found it surprisingly handy this last year.

    Occasionally Alexa thinks you are talking to her when you are not, which is a little startling and annoying.

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  5. It feels really creepy to me to have an always-on microphone in my house from a company as machine learny as Amazon, so I’d definitely not get it

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    • Dreidel on said:

      Yeah, in-home “artificial intelligence” devices like Alexia clearly aren’t ready for prime time — too many privacy/security concerns, too many chances for a misunderstood command with serious consequences, etc. Give the technology another decade, at least.

      Besides, do you want your toddler growing up learning to talk to/interact with a machine, and not learning that contact with real humans doesn’t work that way?

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      • Socal dendrite on said:

        I don’t necessarily disagree with the rest of your comment, but don’t underestimate toddlers – they are very capable of understanding the difference between a machine like Alexa and a human!

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