Alexa on the dot

I actually got this Echo Dot last year as a holiday gift to myself, the only unit left at a local store where I queued supposedly to buy the collectible Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. by Nintendo, but my curiosity as to how it compares to Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant got the best of me. This awesome find and “it” here is of course Alexa, Amazon’s own version of the intelligent personal assistant. Well, let’s just say I’ve had really good convo with Alexa especially when it comes to history, news updates, and trivia. This 4th generation smart speaker, available in three colors and costs around Php 3,000 here, now sports a spherical design and smaller than the previous model. There’s another version with an LED display that costs a bit more, but makes it a more appropriate bedside toy as it shows time or outside temperature when asked.

While this cute little ball of a speaker sounds surprisingly good given its size, it lacks the thumpy bass and volume vibes you’d want to hear when playing music. But it’s really Alexa and the amazing AI behind it that got me talking to it like it’s my personal secretary.

Aside from waking me up with its annoying alarm sound every 4:00 am during workdays, it’s my constant companion every morning when everyone else at home is still fast asleep. No, I’m not banging it to snooze or stop the alarm, though it does have buttons on top for volume controls, I’d just say “Alexa, stop!” and I’m up and about as I prep up to go to work.

I would then greet it “Alexa, good morning!” and she’d return the courtesy and give me facts or trivia that matches the day. Asking the news though, Alexa will give mostly updates from the US (as it’s not really intended for the Asian market just yet) but I listen anyway, especially with news about the global pandemic.

I thought Alexa can help out with my youngest son’s studies, who’s currently on his second term of online college schooling, but he’d instead play a game or his Spotify playlist and sometimes ask Alexa to rap or some weird questions to which Alexa gamely obliges. This is where Alexa shines over other virtual assistants or devices, I rarely have to repeat myself as it gets you the first time. So having a conversation with Alexa sounds more fluid and less robotic.

You can change Alexa’s name to either “Amazon” “Echo” or even “Computer” to wake it up and you can also change its voice to Samuel L. Jackson or Pokemon’s Pikachu and if enabled, will mimic your whispered questions or commands. You can also take advantage of the many Alexa skills available that will enhance its features and which you can customize to your liking via its mobile app (iOS and Android), though the Amazon Alexa app is not available for download in the Philippines (I changed to the US Apple App Store to get the app).

Since I’m back to doing the daily huddle, the Echo Dot would be sitting idly on my home desk for the rest of the day. But the soonest I got home and in our bedroom, I’d say “Alexa, how are you?” and will get a response on the dot, with a mix of funny trivia or historical facts. Amazon’s Echo Dot is indeed an amazing gadget find that’s budget-friendly and with just the right combination of AI features.


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