Alexa, what’s another word for hate?
“Hate’s synonyms include: Hatred.”
We hatred Alexa. When has there been a product with a wider range of uses that don’t work? It nails weather. It slam dunks timers and alarms. That’s about it. Yes it can share factoids like a monotone kid-from-Jerry-Maguire, but after the novelty factor of that wears off what are you left with?
It’s not that it can’t do anything else. It’s that when the odds of getting three seconds of silence followed by “Sorry I’m having trouble, please try again” seem like a coin toss, you stop trying. That’s why almost every Alexa review highlights weather and timers. We only find use in our routines for the reliable… and one wrong answer costs you about ten right ones.
A lot of the skills it’s trying to perfect don’t even seem useful. Who is buying things through a smart speaker? Who are these aristocrats whimsically commanding more paper towels while they feather dust their home? What kind of paper towels? Where do you want to go with that Uber? You have no specific pizza requests? You just want one pizza? What is this creepy utopia?
A friend of the company who shall remain nameless decided to go Full Amazon with his home’s lighting, leaving control exclusively up to Alexa. It was a bold move that quickly went south when his wife was reduced to shouting at the ceiling of a darkened kitchen. We work in the industry and even we have trouble integrating Alexa with smarthome appliances. One Echo with one Philips Hue works great, but adding multiple rooms will renew your appreciation for a good old fashioned light switch.
When it’s not confusing the room or scene you’re referring to, the required syntax is just bizarre. “Dim lights to 100%” should not be a sentence in anyone’s lexicon. If you have to explain a joke it’s not funny, and if you have to avoid your intuition it’s not convenient. Google has a big leg up on syntax flexibility since they own search, but we’re still holding out hope for Josh AI. Home control is a beast on its own. Do we really want to trust a platform concerned with its shopping capabilities with ensuring our smartlock can’t be hacked through voice? A platform dedicated to control specifically for the home has a far better shot at getting it right, which is exactly what Josh AI is up to.
By the way, we know Alexa is listening to us all the time but does it have to remind us? The piping up randomly when her name isn’t called is a bit unsettling.
Intuitive voice control is a really tall order. We’ll get there eventually but in its current state Amazon Echo is just not the lifestyle enhancer it postures to be. Alexa’s future, or whichever voice platform prevails as the most useful, will be as a bonus feature. You won’t buy it in a standalone device. It will come in a product you would have bought anyway without it. When it does, its performance needs to be a lot more reliable. Or it needs to have a prominent off button.