This past weekend, my wife, Amy, and I finally got around to opening and setting up her Amazon Echo Dot with Alexa. It was a Christmas present from her mother last year and has been sitting in its box in a desk drawer, largely forgotten.
But this weekend, I pulled it out and set it up to finally see what all the fuss was about. I know it was released in the U.S. back in June 2015, but sometimes, I’m a little slow to bring a new technology into our home. But this was the perfect weekend to try it out finally.
First, let me set the scene for you. Amy and I have four daughters, ages 16, 13 and the twins are 11. Our house is in a constant state of motion, between school, orchestra, theatre, band and soccer. When we’re actually home, our tech is in a constant state of connectivity with a heavy rotation of Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Instagram, Musical.ly, Realtor and Facebook. Needless to say, we’re very grateful for our Wi-Fi.
Something else I was grateful for this weekend? All the kids were gone. That’s right. My wife and I had a weekend to ourselves. And what better way to spend it than a little romantic dinner at home on Saturday night.
Earlier in the day, we set Alexa up to access our Wi-Fi, Pandora, Honeywell Smart Thermostat and family calendar on Google.
At dinner, we turned the lights down a little lower than usual. We would have asked the Dot to do that for us, but we haven’t upgraded to smart lights yet. We did ask her to turn the thermostat down to help offset the heat of the stove and she performed the task perfectly.
While we were eating, my wife asked me to play some music.
“Alexa,” I said. The blue ring snapped on indicating her readiness. “Open Pandora and create new station.”
“For which artist?” Alexa asked.
My wife shot me a playfully disappointed look as the music began to play.
“Enigma?” Amy asked. “Really? That’s so cliché.”
“Fine,” I said. “Alexa. Create new station in Pandora.”
“For which artist?” she asked again.
Amy started laughing as the distinctive low tones of Mr. White’s voice began to fill the room.
“Okay,” I said. “How about this? Alexa. Create new station in Pandora for Mel Tormé.”
“Mel Torme?” Amy asked as the smooth, soft vocals came out of the speaker. “You can’t be serious?”
“What? You don’t like the Velvet Fog?”
“The what?” she asked, her brows pinched in confusion.
“Nevermind. Alexa. Open station Classical Guitar.”
And we finally had a winner.
The rest of our weekend, we used the Echo Dot for our entertainment. We asked Alexa to sing us a song, tell us some jokes, give us a news briefing, tell us the weather and let us know what’s on the calendar for Monday. Every task we asked of our new personal Wi-Fi assistant was accomplished. And some of the jokes were actually funny.
I know the Echo Dot isn’t the best personal Wi-Fi assistant out there. The New York Times tested all of the tech giants answer to a virtual assistant. While Google’s assistant scored a 3.1 out of 4.0, Apple’s Siri scored a 2.9 and Microsoft’s Cortana scored a 2.3, they gave Alexa a paltry score of 1.7. They based their score on the assistants’ ability to handle tasks based on music, productivity, travel and commuting, dining, entertainment and sports.
Despite the low score, my wife and I love Alexa. I use Google assistant while using my Google app. But Alexa is easily accessible while at home and does everything we want her to do. And once we do a few more smart upgrades in the house, she’ll make us even happier. Plus our kids are going to love having a virtual assistant to do their bidding.