Talk, Alexa, To Me
The Internet has exploded with news on Amazon’s Alexa and Echo devices. The new smart-home technology has begun shaping America into a voice-activated society. Unfortunately for Amazon, while the company does dominate the industry, it doesn’t own the whole market. Both Microsoft and Google have jumped on the bandwagon to develop their own systems. Each of the three products, however, targets a different audience.
For instance, Microsoft’s Cortana targets business and busy professionals. Their computer integration and relationship with Nissan and Volkswagen has also positioned them for a fairly seamless transition into automotive assistance (Weinberger, 2017).
Google Home and Google Assistant, because of their obvious associations with Google, possess a greater database of knowledge. The smart-home technology represents a primarily search-driven system.
Amazon’s Alexa takes another unique approach to the application. The voice behind Amazon’s Echo exists to push customers back to Amazon’s website. Even though the full-house technology revolves around its sales-based focus, the product still leads the industry. The voice-activated experience can perform a wide variety of tasks such as writing to-do lists, finding a phone, calling an Uber or Lyft ride and, of course, buying items from Amazon. Because Alexa also connects to smart appliances, it can obey commands to vacuum floors, change the temperature, lock the doors and dim the lights (Komando, 2017).
However, Alexa has presented problems for some users. News sites such as The Wall Street Journal have published stories on the difficulties posed for humans named Alexa. As expected, shouting “Hey Alexa,” doesn’t specify between technological home assistant and friend. Alexa can also order on demand. However, if the owner has not programmed the purchasing settings to require a password, Alexa will order products and food without a direct order. For instance, if someone on the radio says “Hey Alexa, order a pizza,” the Alexa at home will also begin ordering a pizza. (Gosnell, 2017).
What does this mean for communication as a whole? It means that people need to travel beyond their homes less frequently. Why leave the comfort of your couch if you can simply talk your way through a pizza delivery or toilet paper order? It also seems to predict the continuous rise of one-sided conversations. Asking Alexa to tell a joke begets a joke, and other Easter Eggs produce similar responses. Alexa can simulate conversation and human interaction, thus allowing the owner to decrease in-person communication.
However, the country seems to devour the concept of full-home technological assistants. Even though they pose problems and remain in-development, they do provide fun alternatives to everyday activities and chores. Who knows? Maybe, in the future, every home will run on the energy from its very own Alexa.
- Miriam A. Thurber ‘19
M. Weinberger. (2017, Jan. 14). Why Amazon’s Echo is totally dominating – and what Google,
Microsoft, and Apple have to do to catch up. (Weblog). Retrieved from
K. Komando. (2017, Jan 14). Seven unexpected things Amazon’s Alexa can do for you.
(Weblog). Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/01/14/seven-unexpected-things-amazons-alexa-can-do-for.html
A. Gosnell. (2017, Jan 29). Trending: Joys and challenges of Alexa. (Weblog). Retrieved from