I spend a lot of time talking to my parents about the shows they watch on TV or the movies they see at the theater. They subscribe to Netflix, they rent a lot from Redbox, and they go to cinema probably once a week.
But my mother asked about Amazon Prime Video and if she was missing something by not being a Prime subscriber. So I turned her into one for Christmas this year.
And along with signing my parents to Amazon's all-encompassing shopping club, I sent an echo so they could introduce a little artificial intelligence into their daily lives. I was certainly not alone ̵
My father, Dick, is 82, and my mother, Kathy, is 78, and I have previously written links at the bottom of the story about how they interact with technology in this modern age. They sent my son a dot a few years ago as a birthday present, and they watched me start during a visit to Seattle this fall, but they had never asked for themselves.
I got a text from my mother Kathy a few days after Christmas and said she got everything "hooked and registered" and that Prime Video was now on all their TVs. "It took a little patience," she wrote.
She also said, "Thank you to Alexa", that they had just danced to Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" – her current all-time favorite song because of the use in the movie "A Quiet Place."
"Amazing!" concluded mom.
So after several days with Alexa, I thought I was going to check in to see how the relationship evolved and what kinds of things voice assistant beginners searched for.
In a phone call, mom and dad called me where they had placed the dot in their home, on a shelf just outside the kitchen, next to a dining table where they spent a good time, reading morning news on their iPads, etc.
I laughed when my mother said it was a good place because it was necessary 8 inches from any wall. "What is it about?" I asked her, and she said it was what called the directions. I laughed again.
"You young children don't read the instructions," my mother said. "You just unpack it and plug it in!"
I asked what kind of things they had asked Alexa and they admitted it was still early in the relationship. My dad asked her to play some Johnny Cash one day, and he was surprised that Amazon just stopped endless Johnny Cash songs.
I so welcome to your Prime membership – and told him that if he didn't like a particular track, he could ask Alexa to skip. Or she could turn the volume up or down herself. My parents didn't know this – so much to read the instructions.
My father also said he used Alexa to explain a golf concept he read about, called a four-ball match. He said she explained it in depth.
Throughout our face-time connection, I asked their Alexa how the weather was, and she told me how cold it was at the moment in Rochester, NY
Next to the dot, my mom had placed a few notes, one was a card provided by Amazon titled "Things to try" with a list of commands that a new user could release on Alexa, such as "Alexa, play hip-hop music", "Alexa, how many grams a cup," and "Alexa, turn on the lamp . "I don't think we're going to worry about the last one and go smart at home at my people anytime soon.
My mother also made a simple note nearby that just said "ALEXA" in all caps. I asked what it was for, and she laughed and said my dad needed a reminder of his new voice assistant name. We also got a good laugh from it and I quickly sent them the YouTube link to this perfect "Saturday Night Live" spoof.
My mother scoffed at my assumption that they were unique to their age group in owning such an entity. She said "everyone she knows" has one now, and the rattle of the names of several friends who either have an echo or a Google home.
I joked that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos plans to get into every home job.
"Yes it is. It's a little scary … I think about it," she said. "I have read that they know your discussions, etc. in your home. Is that true?"
I explained that there are people who worry about the devices always listening, and they think technology companies are exceeding ads on websites they visit which is targeted at what they talked about in their own private lives at home.
"It's like the phones, they track you all the time, right?" said my mother.
I told them Amazon's official line, that Alexa is just "awake" and captures speech data after she is asked
In addition, as long as Dad's father continues Calling her Alisha, his private conversations should not make it back to Amazon HQ.
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