The only problem with Star Trek that I have is that the future got here way before they said it would.
I embrace my robot overlords
Here’s the thing. I’m on Facebook, do 90% of my shopping on Amazon, and work for the Government. I gave up the assumption of privacy a decade ago, so why not benefit from Big Brother?
The first player to the game was Amazon with their original, rather pricey, Echo. It wasn’t the reviews that won me over, nor the marketing campaign. What drove my adoption was necessity. My wife has very, very, poor night vision, and rather than risk her injuring herself stumbling in the dark, she could illuminate her surroundings just by saying, “Alexa, turn on bedroom.” Granted, I had to match up my Echo with some other home automation devices, but the investment instantly paid off when she knew that she could arrive at any room in our house without fear.
I’m going to do a separate article on the TP-Link gear that I outfitted the rest of my house with, but as of today, I have smart light bulbs or outlets in my bedroom, office, den, living room, and Mandy’s office. She can turn on lights using voice commands, I can schedule lights to come on or turn off, that schedule can be randomized when we’re away from the house, and all of them monitor my power usage. I know know it costs $4 to run my LED lightbulb in my living room calculated on average usage for a full year? FASCINATING! Again, I’ll talk about TP-Link gear later. Now, back to the Echo.
One Echo ended up not being enough. I have a two story, four bedroom, two and a half bath house, which is plenty big enough to deflect sound and prevent the Echo in my Kitchen from hearing me yell at it from the downstairs garage.
Enter the Echo Dot.
The original Echo was actually over engineered. It’s a great speaker for music, but if you just need an assistant or a home voice control, the much cheaper Echo Dot is all you need. If you were lucky, you picked one up on Black Friday for 30 bucks. Or ideally, six. It’s roughly the size of a hockey puck, can generally hear you over most TV shows, and does all the things the much more expensive Echo does.
That’s the trick of it you see. For some reason, Amazon has decided that Apple’s policy of forcing you to buy all new hardware in order to benefit from the most minor software tweaks is dumb. I for one agree! Every software update that has ever been released for the Echo has been released to ALL Echos, even my original model. It still looks good, it still sounds good, the little Dots work great, and every single day they get more and more useful.
This is particularly true in the kitchen for some reason. You can just say, “Alexa, set Turkey for two hours” and she’ll say “Turkey for two hours,” and then you can say “Alexa, set Dressing for twenty minutes,” and so on, and so forth. Your Alexa can keep track of an infinite amount of concurrent timers, and she’ll tell you which timer is going off when they go. SO USEFUL!
Soon I realized I could control my Amazon Fire Stick, make intercom calls across the house, and make sure my garage door was down.
Yeah, but surely the other smart homes can do that too!
Yeah, probably. Check out Big Tommy’s review of the Google Airbuds to get an idea of what Google Home can do. The Apple Home Pod can’t do jack for you, mostly because it’s been delayed again to mid-2018. Amazon got my business because they were first, and they got it right out of the gate. I’m usually a Google Fanboy, so I encourage you to investigate that if you think it’s better. For certain, the Google Assistant is much better at conducting Google Searches for you. However, if my Nexus 6 is any comparison, Google sucks as a voice activated timer, who knows. Find the right tool, you’ll appreciate it.
The neat thing about the Echo line is the diversity of options. It all really depends on your comfort level. I am comfortable having a device listening to me, but my brain can’t quite make the jump to video. The Echo Show and Echo Spot add good looking screens to the Echo line, but with them, cameras. I don’t know why I’m hypocritical on this front, I just am. My wife and I both have smart phones, and she has a MacBook Pro, so it’s not like we don’t already have them. Honestly, assuming I can yell at the thing to show me recipes, the kitchen seems like a pretty safe place to put one.
What’s funny is that the thing can be used to do video chat. The ultimate form of Star Trek communication, and also the one that seems least effective in the real world. I don’t want to look at you when we’re on the phone. Hell, I don’t even want to be on the phone. Maybe this is where Gene Roddenberry should have drawn the line.
Don’t believe me? Here’s an example: