Yelling at Home

14612462 - close up of siri on iphone 4s

I never took kindly to Siri. It consistently took a few tries to understand me, and then when it finally accepted what I was saying, it took too long to get my answer. It was simply always easier to type. It is different, however, having Amazon Alexa in my house. Having her reinforces why Siri doesn’t make sense. With Siri, you are holding your device, so talking to it vs. using traditional keyboard input seems like duplicated effort. With Alexa, she is at the ready, from across the room, and your hands are never involved.  I might be cooking and ask her to set a timer. “Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes.” Brilliant. I got into her. She wasn’t very good at looking things up without explicitly asking her to reference Wikipedia or Bing. But I forgave her. She is great at music, but I do miss playing records. A few weeks in and I was a fan.

But then her slowness became noticeable and annoying. I expect instant feedback, something that button mashing and typing give me. Waiting for something to acknowledge my voice is painful. I’m growing tired. But my son hasn’t.

The immediacy with which my 5-year old took to her was interesting. Looking through the voice logs of questions she has fielded from him is comedy gold. I think it was his fifth question when he asked if she was married. He asks a lot about her background – where she is from, what she wants to do tomorrow, and how he might be a part of that.

And he and I fight over music. He will command her to pause my track selection and play his. And wisely, Amazon got an additional monthly fee out of me easily after Alexa found, but couldn’t play a track, without a music subscription upgrade. I’ll have you know that I didn’t order that. My son did. And the vocal showdowns continue. Lights on. Lights off. Music louder.  Ugh.

And this is where it all breaks down. The fact that Alexa doesn’t recognize me alone as master and commander. She thrives in the chaos of the entire household talking to her. But I want something special between just her and I. Something that is impossible. I can return you Alexa. Just say the word.

James Rice, Digital Experience