We love our Amazon Echo. Among other tasks, my four year old finds the knock knock jokes hilarious, the weather captivating, the ability to summon songs comparable to magic, and Echo to be the best speller in the house.
My fear? It’s also turning our daughter into a raging asshole. Because Alexa tolerates poor manners.
You see, the prompt command to activate the Echo is, “Alexa…” It certainly is not, “Alexa, please.” Alexa is not required to offer a “thank you” before Echo is ready to perform another task, nor does Echo give my daughter that thoughtful acknowledgement, either.
This holiday season, both Amazon and Google are selling their smart speakers for so little that they’re basically giving them away, or in some cases, partnering with other companies to actually give them away.
Amazon’s Echo Dot and Google’s Nest Mini speakers usually retail for $50, and Google Home Minis usually retail for $25, but in recent weeks they’ve been included for “free” or at an extremely reduced price with the purchase of other items. Spotify is giving away Google Home Minis to its premium users. Tile is throwing in a free Google Nest Mini with the purchase of its…
It’s that time of year again. Not all of us will festoon the house with garlands, light candles, or stick a tree in our living rooms. But many of us will ask, “Should I buy myself or anyone else an Amazon Echo device for the holidays?”
It wasn’t always like this, my friends.
On November 6, 2014, Amazon announced the original Amazon Echo, an always-on speaker that responds to the wake-word “Alexa.” But I didn’t learn about the device until a few months later, a few days into my 2015 New Year’s resolution to stop shopping at Amazon.
At its Seattle event last week, Amazon unveiled more than just an ambush of Echo devices. It also unveiled a new strategy.
While the company has been aggressively pushing Alexa into the homes of its customers for years in a bid to make it the smart assistant of choice, it now wants to put Alexa everywhere.
This is a departure from Amazon’s first Echo strategy, which was to make the devices so cheap that they were easy to buy, even if they weren’t all that appealing. Dave Limp, a senior vice president at Amazon, once told CNBC, “We try to…
Amazon knows that Alexa doesn’t get everything right, so the virtual personal assistant is picking up a new trick later this year: Guessing when you’re frustrated.
The feature represents a fundamental shift in how Alexa understands the people talking to it. A conversation with Rohit Prasad, vice president and chief scientist for Alexa, reveals that the virtual assistant now analyzes not just what you’re saying, but your tone of voice when telling Alexa it got a command wrong. Rather than trying to understand what you said, Alexa also analyzes how you say it.
Amazon spent the first few minutes of a wild product launch event Wednesday making it clear that it has heard users’ privacy concerns, and it’s listening — very closely. It spent the rest of the time introducing a dozen new ways to track, surveil, and yes, listen to people, not only in their kitchens or living rooms but everywhere they go. It can even keep tabs on your dog.
By the end of the event, the privacy features felt like a distant memory.
Two weeks after Apple bored the tech world with its most tepid hardware launch event in memory…
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