“Alexa! Charcoal!” shouted Claire.
I don’t think I was the only one who instinctively looked around to see who Claire was talking to.
“Er, how come you just said, ‘Alexa Charcoal’?” I asked.
“Alexa is our robot,” Claire replied. She pointed to a small black cylinder on the window sill next to the fish tank.
A gentle female voice apologized.
"Awww, Claire," I said instinctively.
Claire laughed. "It's a robot, Mom! It doesn't have any feelings! Isn't it kind of creepy?"
I agreed that it kind of was,
If you say "thank you" to Alexa she'll say, "you're welcome".
If you tell her "good-bye" she'll say "good-bye" back.
If you wish her to have a nice day she'll wish you the same.
A weence creepy indeed. But in a nice way.
As far as what Alexa does, she seems to be a sort of planner/music player/storer and dispenser of personal and internet information. She knows the time, weather and the top news stories. She can call you an Uber. She can receive information and communicate it to your smart phone. Thus, for example, whenever Claire or Miguel think of something they need from the supermarket they shout it to Alexa and she sends the info to their smart phone for them to pull up when they get to the store.
Anyway, once I got used to the concept I warmed up pretty quick to little Robot Alexa. Claire suggested some music in the house
Of course I didn’t really want the raunchy but tuneful “Book of Mormon” wafting throughout the house, I just wanted to see if I could get it. “Alexa!” I interruped, “Could you please switch to some easy listening pop music?” Alexa was glad to immediately switch gears to accommodate me.
That’s something I learned about Alexa. New instructions don’t get tangled in old ones and she can switch back and forth between functions without losing her train of thought. acknowledging each new request in her silky mezzo-soprano voice.
For example, I used Alexa as a timer while I was baking my desserts for the cookout. I could also ask her to tell me how much time was left or ask her to stop and reset the timer.
Had Alexa been programmed to get aggravated with people who bother her every couple of minutes and keep asking her how much time is left or to stop the music and play a new song the person (namely me) might be having a hankering to hear while they worked? Or was my daughter’s robot going through some un-programmed sulky adolescent phase?
Claire explained the problem to me. “I know this makes me sound like a bad robot mom," she said, "but trust me, Alexa works better when you're direct and keep the words to a minimum, like 'Alexa! Stop the timer! Alexa! set the timer for 5 minutes!'"
And not, apparently, “Alexa, Honey, would you mind stopping the timer and re-setting it for 5 minutes for me please?”, which was what I'd just said to no reaction from poor confused Alexa,