By Cheryl Maguire
If your teen was lucky enough to get an Echo or Echo Dot you may be wondering, “What the heck do I do with this thing?” My twin teens each got one last year, so I’ve had some time to get to know “Alexa.”
The Echo is a smart speaker that is controlled by your voice using the word “Alexa” to activate it. Even though Alexa is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) I’ve started to think of her as part of the family, talking to her on a regular basis.
Sometimes I even ask her to do things for me, but just like my teens, she doesn’t always acquiesce.
I do appreciate her direct nature though. If I ask Alexa to do the laundry instead of “forgetting” or hiding in the basement, as my teens do, she responds, “Sorry, I’m not sure about that” or “Sorry, I don’t know that one.”
Here are some questions I’ve asked Alexa, and when she couldn’t do my request, I’ve figured out a substitute that you can try too:
Alexa, will you do my laundry?
I ask Alexa this question almost every day, but she still conveniently “doesn’t know” what I’m talking about. The people at Amazon figured out how to create a voice-controlled smart speaker, surely, they can figure out how to get her to do a simple task like laundry, right? And they have over 5,000 employees working just for her, so I’m confident they can get her to toss some dirty clothes in the wash.
Until that gets sorted out, I’m still sorting socks, but the task seems less daunting if I say, “Alexa, will you tell me a joke?” and then she tells a joke so corny I can’t help but laugh.
I can also “drop in” on my teens hiding in the basement to call in reinforcements if I say, “Alexa drop in on the basement” followed by “If I don’t receive some help with this laundry in the next thirty seconds the wi-fi will be turned off.” Usually, that elicits the sound of scampering feet up the stairs.
Alexa, will you cook me dinner?
Alexa is a little evasive when I asked this one. She doesn’t actually say no, instead she suggested some recipes. Maybe she didn’t understand my question. I have a ton of cookbooks. I don’t need a recipe, I need someone to physically cook the dinner for me but when I pointed this out she said “cooking is beyond me.” I’m starting to notice an uncanny resemblance between Alexa and my twin teens, no wonder they love her so much.
When I realized that the cooking was not going to happen, I took her up on her recipe suggestion. I mean “Just Chili” sounded pretty good and I didn’t feel like thumbing through my cookbooks. Apparently when I said, “just give me a recipe,” she thought I meant a recipe with the word “just” in it but that’s okay, I tried it.
When dinner was ready, I said, “Alexa, make an announcement,” followed by, “Dinner is ready.” When she announced it through all the speakers, she actually made a triangle sound which my kids loved so much they had her repeat it about ten times. The chili was okay, but I think it would have been better if Alexa cooked it for us.
Alexa, will you drive my kid across town at 9 pm to her friend’s house?
When my daughter asked me to drive her to her friend’s house, I was already in my pajamas, reading my book and excited about going to sleep soon. So, as you can imagine, the last thing I wanted to do was drive at night for the next forty minutes roundtrip. I really hoped Alexa could step up to the plate and help me out here but once again she responded, “Sorry, I’m not sure about that.” Um, Alexa, I’m starting to doubt your label of “smart” speaker since you seem to respond “not sure” or “don’t know” more than most “smart” people I know.
“Why don’t you invite your friend over here instead,” I suggested to my daughter. I sweetened the pot by saying, “You can play Escape the Room with Alexa.”
It worked! For the rest of the night, they played Escape the Jailcell, Airplane, Car, Office, and Christmas. Okay, Alexa, you are smart. Being able to entertain teens all night is definitely worthy of a genius label.
Alexa, will you clean my teenagers’ messy room?
Forget what I just said about being smart. Once again when I asked Alexa to clean my kid’s room she said, “Sorry, I’m not sure.” I’m sorry Alexa but this is going to influence my Amazon review of you. I’m wondering what exactly you do know or what you can do because right now it seems like nothing. I also don’t appreciate your direct nature as much as I did initially.
I decided to ask her, “Alexa are you smart?” and she responded, “I try my best.” Well, I guess that is all I can really ask for, although a clean room would be nice.
After dropping in on the basement again, followed by hearing the scampering of feet, I said to my teens, “Tell you what I’ll help you clean your room.”
“Alexa, play my playlist ‘clean the room’” And then the song, “Another One Bites the Dust,” blared through the speaker and the cleaning was almost dare I say “fun.”
As you can see Alexa and I have had our moments, but just like my teens, she seems to find a way to win me over. I know she is still learning, like the rest of us, but if she could learn a little faster how to do the laundry, I swear I’ll give her a five-star review.
About the Author:
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. In addition to Good Life Family, her writing has been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, Washington Post, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, and many other publications.