Reflections and Echoes

I managed to sneak an Amazon Echo into the house in January, by pretending it was merely making a brief stop on its way to my office. I wasn't entirely sure why I'd lusted after it so, but justified the expense as a relatively cheap way of being able to listen to Spotify in the kitchen, and replace our ten-year-old bacteria-harbouring DAB radio.

After an initial period of six weeks or so when she wouldn't talk to the thing—preferring instead to revert to the manky radio—Mrs. Tree eventually gave in. She now speaks to it often, albeit in the manner she might when scolding a disobedient dog.

Ten-year-old Miss Tree on the other hand spent the Echo's first two days in our home repeating the words "Alexa: tell me a joke", stopping only when the replies began repeating themselves. She asked "Alexa: what's a penis?" only once (you would too if you heard the answer) before her primary interaction with the device became "Alexa: play Shout Out To My Ex by Little Mix" whenever I'm listening to something interesting on Radio 4.

The man of the house (that's me, for the avoidance of doubt) was an eager user from the get-go, setting timers while cooking, asking whether I needed to take my umbrella to work, converting measurements from imperial to metric, and so on. I even hooked up my espresso machine with a WeMo Switch so I could command it on and off from a great distance of ten feet or more. I have been astounded by its ability to interpret what's being said; without exception it understood my entire and extensive repertoire of British dialects (while Siri still struggles with my normal accent).

Two months later, all the objections and novelty have passed by and it's become just a radio we command by voice—and not a very good one. I've found it prone on occasion to buffering awkwardly (the the most awkward being that time at 3am it decided to reconnect to a TuneIn stream, making us think we had intruders). And for £150 the sound quality could be better.

So I think I may find its way to my office after all, although what it'll do when it gets there I have no idea. Perhaps it's really destined for eBay.