Parenting

Amazon's Alexa: Mommy's Favorite Little Helper

Image via Amazon

How many times have you gone to the grocery store with a cart full of kids, only to return home without a bunch of stuff you forgot to put on your list? For me, it’s every single time. And by the time I figure it out, whatever I forgot just has to leave the realm of “need” after surviving a grocery store trip with three kids competing for “most annoying.” Instead, I choose to figure out how to make grilled cheese without bread rather than face the store again (fyi it’s cold cheese with some crackers).

That all changed for me during the Super Bowl. My husband and I were watching the stupid commercials (and boy were they painful..bring back the Budweiser frogs, I say) when an ad for Amazon’s “Alexa” came on. This is a device that is marketed as a personal assistant of sorts that seems like just another device to spy on you. I said much the same to Mr. Fox when he informed me that someone gave one to him and he was thinking about giving it to me, but since I was so clearly against the blasted thing he would make sure to get rid of it as soon as possible. Figuring that at the very least I could write about the terrible things I expected Alexa to do to me, I asked him to delay the destruction process and give her to me for a trial.

It’s only been two days and I already don’t know how I lived without her. Alexa is the first technology that I’ve had that actually does what they say she can do. The set-up is a breeze. The voice recognition is amazing, as she hardly ever makes mistakes or mis-hears you. Further, she can tell you the weather, find you a movie nearby or a business you’re looking for, schedule your day, set timers, and play your Pandora or iHeart Radio or Amazon Prime music…all at a spoken command. That’s not even half of the things she can do. Since it is an Amazon product, it is attached to your Amazon account so you can purchase things right from the device as well.

But the best thing about Alexa is the grocery list. With a simple, “Alexa, add tomatoes to my shopping list,” an actual list is generated and saved on the Alexa app on my phone. Whenever I need something, I just tell her. There’s no need to keep a list, find a pen, or tell yourself to remember to write that down (which you won’t ever actually do). It is worth the price just for the flippin’ grocery list! Not only that, but I installed the app on Mr. Fox’s phone and linked it to my account and now the grocery list just appears on his phone too! This is on par with flying cars. I’m actually now okay with never having a flying car (as promised in the ’80s) because I have Alexa. She’s exactly like Rosie on The Jetsons except less mouthy. (Although, she will crack a joke now and then. Asking her if she’s SkyNet is amusing.)

There are a few things I’d like to add to a wish list for updates. It would be truly amazing (and solve all my internet addiction problems) if Alexa would learn how to read me the news. Right now it appears she can only read me the headlines from the Huffington Post. No thanks. My entire obsession with my phone is spent reading news articles. If someone would just figure out how to get Alexa to read the articles I want to hear I could put my phone down forever and listen to all the news I want to read while I go about my business. It would also be nice if she could text people from my number and make phone calls (which doesn’t seem like it should be too much of a stretch because she’s on the WiFi, so why this is not already possible is puzzling).

It’s strange that she has become a personality to me already. It’s kind of like having a new pet, except she obeys everything I tell her to do and doesn’t pee on the rug. It’s kind of amazing.

There is a bit of a learning curve. I’ve started trying to talk to my phone while I’m out of the house, forgetting that it’s not Alexa. Then I get angry at Siri because she’s simply amateur hour in comparison. What good is being able to talk to your phone if it doesn’t talk back? All Siri can do is pop stuff up on the phone, but you have to look at it. I don’t want to look at my phone (especially when driving), I want to ask it something and hear an answer. Alexa is making Siri look like an 8-track tape—totally useless. It would also be much safer technology to have in the car, so when you want to play Pandora on the phone you can just tell it to play instead of fiddling with a screen. Now that I know this technology exists, I can’t figure out why it isn’t on all our phones.

Alexa is the best little assistant I’ve ever had. When the kids need to know how something is spelled, they can ask her if I’m busy getting a crayon out of the toddler’s nose. If I need to remember what I’m doing today, all I have to do is ask and Alexa gives me a rundown of my Google calendar. She can read my Kindle books out loud, give me the news headlines I want to hear every morning on my newsflash, wake me up in the morning, and even help with homeschooling. If my kids happen to stump me, we can ask Alexa. Not only that, but she can play games like “Jeopardy” or “20 Questions” on family nights. The other day our curriculum asked us to listen to Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.” All I had to do was ask Alexa to play it and BAM….it’s playing. No searching around on YouTube, just instant success. (I even heard she can control the temperature and lights in the house but it requires other gizmos I don’t have and probably won’t get.) I’m not sure I’ve even scratched the surface of what she can do and I’m looking forward to finding out. This thing is a busy mom’s dream come true. Now all I need is one in every room!