Raising kids with Alexa: There is a very interesting article from Quartz that looks at the issue of parents being concerned that Alexa and the Echo are teaching their children to be rude. It is a fascinating read. Since natural language can be more difficult for an AI to understand, the piece points out, “When it comes to chatting with Alexa, it pays to be direct—curt even.”
Children are indeed drawn to the device and seem to pick up using it readily. I’ve heard stories from friends about how their children interact with the device: repeated questions, endless joke requests, etc. There are even skills directly designed with children in mind. So.As parents, part of our job is to make sure our offspring have the skills necessary to be functioning members of society and good manners is certainly the oil that greases the wheels as the saying goes. This may be another factor that may need to be considered if you are a family considering a purchase. And for the record, Alexa does respond when you say thank you (with a variety of responses).
Do you want an International version of the Amazon Echo? Right now, you can only use the Amazon Echo and Tap in the United States. It requires a US account with a US zip code.This makes it difficult if you want to take your Echo out of the country with you. There is an interesting discussion on the topic on the Amazon forums. It turns out there are a few workarounds that may be able to help, depending on your country and your situation. Things to try:
- Some people have used a VPN and entered the closed corresponding US zip code.
- To get weather for your international location, ask “What’s the weather in ______?” and enter your location.
- If you are unable to download the Alexa app, try using http://alexa.amazon.com/. You can also try to search for an Alexa app APK.
The hacks seem to meet with varying degrees of success. Read the discussion thread for more info.
If you want to see a truly international version, let Amazon know. The folks on the forum suggest using the hashtag #internationalalexa on social media to try to get support for an international version of the device.
The Amazon Tap, WiFi and a call to Echo support: A couple of weeks back, I talked about my WiFi problems when travelling with my Amazon Tap. Well, last week I had a bigger WiFi problem. The Tap couldn’t connect to WiFi at all on my home network. The Alexa App on my Fire Tablets was also saying it was offline. I got a strange error message (code 7:3:4:0:1) when it couldn’t connect. I did a search and found a Reddit thread on the issue here. I tried everything that the thread suggested, including resetting the device and still could not get back online.
I finally called the Amazon Echo support line for help. The rep was extremely nice and helpful and she walked me through setting up the device again. What was most helpful about the experience was the the support rep could see what really was going on with the Tap when my app would hang (which evidently happens a lot). At one point, the Tap was actually back online even though I was still seeing a “trying to connect” message. Amazon had me back up and running in less than ten minutes and its been smooth sailing ever since..
If you have a problem you can’t solve, you can reach Echo Support at 1-877-375-9365. They are available from 3 a.m. to 10 p.m. Pacific time, seven days a week. You get this number via email from Amazon if you report a problem via the Amazon app.
Voice-first is going mainstream: A recent survey looked at the Amazon Echo, Google Now and Siri to see how customers are using these voice first services and to find out what consumers think of them. The results are interesting and clearly show that people want to talk to their devices. As someone who grew up reading science fiction and seeing the TV and movie examples of talking computers like HAL and those from Star Trek, it really is an natural next step from where we are now. Did you know that 50% of people keep their Echo in the kitchen? How does your use of the Echo compare to other peoples uses? I tend to check the weather a lot with the Echo – her forecasts are generally dead-on accurate!
The study looked at early adopters of the Amazon Echo. For the Google and Siri portion, mainstream users were surveyed.This left me wondering if anyone has done a study yet of all the various AI systems. I have noticed that since I got the Echo, I am actually also doing more with Google Now and Siri than I was before I bought the Tap and the Echo.