Alexa: Friend? Foe?
Alexa doesn’t always get it right.
Based on its commercials, you’d think the Amazon Echo walks on water!
I admit, it’s pretty amazing — a voice-activated speaker that plays music, answers questions, reads you audiobooks, gives the news/weather, sets a timer and orders stuff. Think Siri’s younger, hipper, simpler sister.
Hey, I’m not being mean, it’s just that “Alexa” isn’t nearly as smart as Siri. (“Siri’s a great app but I’m different,” Alexa quips, in her own defense.)
I have to keep reminding myself that the Echo, which answers to the name “Alexa,” is essentially a glorified speaker, not a mini computer. She’s not the perfect mate I thought she’d be last year when she first arrived. It’s like finding out that your dream guy snores like a wildebeest.
Yes, Alexa is not without her shortcomings. (But who isn’t?!) Here are a few:
1. Alexa doesn’t always get it right.
All too often, she mishears things… especially if spoken in Brooklynese. Ask for “Lush Life” and you might get “Flashlight.”
There is a way to train Alexa to recognize your accent. (What accent?) But I can’t seem to get used to her robot-like lilt.
2. Alexa can’t actually think.
...Probably. If it’s in the Amazon Library. Or in your personal library.
But if you want her to play something from Spotify — that isn’t in the Amazon Library — you have to ask her specifically.
Why doesn’t Alexa just search Spotify automatically?
Because Amazon wants you to buy their music, not subscribe to another service. Can you say monopoly?
3. Alexa has no memory.
Sometimes Alexa will tell you, “I can’t find ‘Wild Thing’ in your music library,” when she played it for you just yesterday.
And if you ask her why she can’t find it, because she played it yesterday, she’ll say, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question you asked.” If you tell Alexa you’re going to throw her out the window, she’ll say, “Sorry. I’ll try to do better next time.”
4. Alexa takes things VERY literally.
If you request another version of “My Funny Valentine,” Alexa might say, “I can’t find a song called ‘Another Version of My Funny Valentine’ in your music library.”
Even if you rephrase it and ask, “Does someone else do ‘My Funny Valentine?’” she’ll just respond with, “Hmmm, I can’t find a song called ‘Does Someone Else Do My Funny Valentine?’ in your music library.”
5. Alexa is a one-trick pony.
Even if there’s more than one recording of a song, she’ll play the same one over and over. And over.
For some reason, Alexa always gives me Matt Damon (Matt Damon!) singing “My Funny Valentine” and never Billie Holiday. Unless I ask for it by artist name.
See above, re: trying to get Alexa to play another version.
6. Alexa has no sense of humor.
Although she can tell jokes, Alexa is not a funny girl. But that doesn’t stop me from making her say wacky things. For example, it gives me a cheap thrill to have her play Spit’s “My Big Dick” and then ask what song it is, just to hear her say the raunchy title.
She does, warning me that MBD is explicit. Every single time.
And she never chuckles. Not even once.
7. Alexa doesn’t do background noise.
Like a hearing aid that sucks when two things are happening at once, Alexa’s useless when there’s background noise. Like when you’re washing dishes, for instance.
8. Alexa is like a nosy neighbor.
She’s always listening. That’s how she can respond when you ask her to do something. So, when you’re getting busy on the kitchen counter — Alexa’s listening. When you’re telling Capital One the last four digits of your SSN — Alexa’s listening. And who knows who else is.
You can tell Alexa to stop listening, but does she really? I mean, how do you know? Sure, if you ask her, she says that she starts listening “properly” when she hears the “wake” word — “Alexa” — but does she?
These glitches aside, Alexa is still awesome.
I love that she’s hands-free, and I can call out an obscure Naughty by Nature tune while I’m kneading dough, and she’ll play it. Most of the time.
Kind of. Sort of. Almost. Usually.