Most of its functionality was pretty useless once the novelty factor wore off. I don't have a smarthome or anything crazy like that, so the extent of useful functionality remaining is setting timers by speaking while i'm cooking, and asking about weather when I'm in a rush in the morning.
Even that it performs poorly. Sometimes it just starts talking when I didn't address it, which is annoying. Often it cant hear me from the next room over, which is annoying. It has difficulty understanding accents which is annoying.
I've certainly never found it would be more convenient to use for making amazon purchases as opposed to using my computer or phone, and I don't subscribe to any music service, which alexa bugs me about every time I tried using it for playing music, so I just don't do that anymore.
Even the most simple novelty commands ("alexa bark") have managed to find ads attached to them in recent months (really. She advertises some advanced bark skill to me).
If Alexa started summoning me it would be unplugged that day.
In my experience Alexa sucks at voice recognition in creatively bad ways. Most importantly, if I want to turn on lights for a room, it has taken to making a very subtle variant of the room I asked for and then goes into a lengthy 'I could not find the room 'living rooms' what device did you mean?' (or my personal favorite, turning off the Xbox instead which turns off the tv, while you sit there dumbfounded staring at the off TV now[It sometimes turns our tv on if I turn on the bedroom lights too!]) But she says it rather slow and it's really annoying as you wait the extra 10 seconds. In most cases it would be faster to get up and actually use the light switch.
To think this is actually much better than it used to be, back at 1.0 it was very bad, finding things very far off or responding to 'turn on living room' with 'According to webster's, a living room is a room where..' Obviously the only response as a human is: 'I KNOW WHAT A LIVING ROOM IS, I'M IN A DARK ONE, I WANT IT TO BE BRIGHTER.'
The Google(NEST?!) home works great and is generally right, but saying 'okay google' is pretty dumb. (also creepy)
Don't get me started on playing music, she's useless for that. Yesterday I asked her to play a song fifteen times before I got angry and gave up at her inability to understand what I'm saying.
I set up a nap routine for my baby's room where it turns off the lights and starts the white noise.
I love when people live in a bubble. I know exactly one person who has a voice assistant, and it's not even Alexa.
Like you're at a locked door in a MUD and you have a key in your inventory. "put key in lock", "insert key into lock", "unlock door", "put key in padlock", -- these all fail. Then you ask around and someone tells you you need to use "push key into door". And you wonder if you would've even come up with that in 1000 tries.
That's how I've felt when using Siri and Alexa. It feels precarious.
The number of people in my close circle using this tech has been pretty much constant over the past few years, hovering at 2. The rest try and discard.
You could ask for "netflix" (but the remote has a dedicated button for this!) but you cannot search for a specific movie, you cannot speak to enter your username/password or enter data in any text inputs. You cannot even pause any of the streaming apps (maybe you can pause if playing from the USB stick).
There are plenty of people on the Internet, for example, explaining why electric cars won't work for them today because they need to drive 500 miles every Monday...
People think we'll have self-driving cars within a decade but voice assistants will remain primitive?
Now that there's a financial incentive to improve voice user interfaces (VUI), they will improve rapidly. Hopefully, there will be a great open source option (like Linux), but I'm not waiting... After watching Star Trek and HAL as a child, I thought we'd be talking with computers decades ago.
The Deep Learning in natural language processing is probably more difficult than in self-driving cars.
It is simpler than self driving cars which have to navigate a completely dynamic environment with many autonomous actors and make good decisions very quickly.
I guess it mostly show the tech and tech adjacent bubble.
Because after 5 years, Alexa still doesn't work well enough for most people except to set a kitchen timer, play music, or check the outdoor temperature.
So a more "proactive" Alexa will realistically mean... what? Probably nothing more than the kind of notifications you might get on your phone already, only spoken. At best, "Leave early for your commute because traffic is bad." or "You might be running out of toilet paper, should I order more?"
If even that. Google knows a lot about me -- it can infer events from my e-mail, commutes from my Maps usage, etc. All Amazon knows is what I shop for and maybe occasionally watch on TV. Not a whole lot to be proactive about there.
Same with the others. Google's seems to be the best, but it's still not great. Given where we were with custom-trained (to your own voice) locally-processed speech-to-text almost 20 friggin' years ago, it's hard to imagine that wouldn't be at least as good as the spying cloud AI mumbo-jumbo by now, had those being available and "free" not taken all the money, interest, and talent away from that.
The very worst admin I've ever had is still about 1000x more capable than one of these voice assistants.
Honestly if I had paid for it I would have probably wanted my money back. Maybe that's why they are giving them out for free.
What?? Replace "planet" with "United States". I doubt outside Europe and North America Alexa is that pervasive. I only know one person who has it in their home, and I know a bunch of rich people who shop at Amazon. It's just nowhere near common in my large, very populated country.
Not even. Replace United States with... some very small subset of the United States.
I guess the bubble is very real.
Largely due to extremely limited functionality if you're not using Amazon's services, and limited options for language.
I'm not sure about the latest generation, but the previous ones wouldn't even support a 24 hour clock format.
I can do search on my desktop 1000% more precisely, thank you.
People use it for the convenience.
Though, I'd also be vary of having an always listening gadget in my room.
It would be a convenience if it would be 100% certified to comply with decent privacy rules, it could almost perfectly understand variety of European languages and... I would be much more lazy person. Not going to happen anytime soon.
Looks like I can live happily without such a gimmick.
The article is very vague about what exactly Amazon is going to do. It doesn't sound like it would be anything more than Google Assistant is already doing by reading your email and automatically adding flights and hotel reservations to your calendar. I've even had Google automatically suggest a gas station on the way to return a rental car based on the reservation info, which was a little creepy, but I have to admit, convenient.
Good news is, at least for now, it's easy to thwart Internet connectivity. Simply create a new SSID, connect them to it, and then delete the SSID. Make sure you set up WPA2 as part of it, so that if someone in the future creates the same SSID as a rogue/spoof, that it'll fail to connect. Once most devices connect to WiFi they internally disable Bluetooth automatically as it's used for IOT setup.
I look at what Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others are doing with voice assistants and IOT and I just stare in abject horror. We're setting ourselves up for a dystopian cyberpunk nightmare of a future and everybody just seems to be okay with it. These roadmaps don't give me much hope for the future.
Also, I'd argue that the "Alexa is so dumb, it doesn't understand half of what I tell it" crowd here are missing the point, and the point is what you said
However, in my experience Alexa is still pretty stupid. The only things it does well, is to play music, switch lights and read Wikipedia articles.
The one thing I'm scared of is Alexa sending everything it hears to Amazon, and not only things I said after the trigger word. I know for a fact, Alexa constantly records even today, because it can filter "trigger word in the middle of a sentence" scenarios, when no actual request is intended. I really do hope, that only actual requests (or false-positives) are currently sent to the AWS cloud.
If that won’t be the case anymore in the future, I’ll be out.
However the more complex parsing of what ever comes after the Wake Word needs to be sent off as an audio stream to some cloud operation for parsing where more horsepower is available. This also seems quite reasonable to me. Sure, it could be done on the device but this would mean a hotter CPU on the device and a generally more expensive Alexa. Certainly no more $29 Echo Dots.
Is Alexa listening all the time? Hell yes it is! Is Alexa recording everything you say, everything you watch on TV, every time the dog barks and sending it back to Amazon for archival? Its possible but consider the economics of storing that much data as audio. Storage is cheap but thats quite a burden. Is AMZN keeping a parsed version of everything it hears from your device and dumping the raw audio version? Its technically possible but again, consider the economics of such a thing.
Not to mention, how many Alexas are going to be sold after someone here posts smoking gun proof Alexa is constantly or even at some batched interval sending off large chunks of data which are in fact full voice recordings?
I'm not going to waste my time on this experiment but anybody who is good with Wireshark could perform an analysis to quickly disprove this whole notion.
That, however, is separate from a concern that the device is streaming your data back at all times. The implementation could easily locally listen for the wake word, record your utterance, and only stream/process that part of it. It can, in a sense, listen at all times but only tell Amazon what you actually want it to tell Amazon. Which, AFAIK, is how the device works. That doesn't, of course, mean that it works flawlessly or that things are captured which you don't intend it to capture, which is a fact that has also been covered extensively by the media reporting on Alexa.
From the public record you can actually be pretty certain that Alexa doesn't send anything back to Amazon other than actual requests (and false positives). There was a murder trial a few years ago where an Alexa may have grabbed some audio of the murder. A judge ordered Amazon to turn over anything they may have, and Amazon said they didn't receive any requests during that time period, and they don't get any recordings other than those requests. So Amazon has effectively stated, under threat of criminal prosecution, that they don't record anything other than those requests.
Really? Alexa is not available everywhere and it supports a limited number of languages, so if their language is not supported then people may not buy it, because not everyone wants to converse with Alexa via a foreign language. (Also, pronunication issues can cause speech recognition problems if one speaks, e.g. English or Spanish with a heavy accent.)
(before hanging up obviously. I mean I don't want to have to hear that. :P )
As an early user of Alexa, unfortunately the technology is underwhelming. she does not understand names, she do not seem to improve while Google and Siri do actually, So yes Alexa Auto, or Alexa Show are good interesting devices, the reality is less rosy.
... the value of which is a massive bubble due to the (mistaken) notion that if we just pile up enough garbage we can somehow wring gold from it. The gold, of course, being the ability to manipulate people into buying a different type of garbage.
I'm always reminded that Amazon started with books, when I buy a vacuum cleaner and the site concludes I must want to buy a whole bunch more vacuum cleaners.
The idea of voice assistant predicting what the user wants seems impossible without that feedback.
If companies can convince the user that their assistant knows what they want, then it can actually just push out what it wants and users will comply.
Alexa, doesn't know:
-Where I live
-My Music Preferences
-That I have YouTube Premier
-That I listen to afrikaans artist
-My Search history, and what I expect whey I ask/search for general stuff.
-Can't talk to my ChromeCast(sic ?)
-Didn't know where i drove to yesterday.
Basically I need to get a Google-Home
This is jus another hack some suit is probably pitching Bezos on but has no real roadmap for actually achieving it.
Propping the product up with more crap.
I'm not in the US, so I'm curious how pervasive it is. Is it the minority who doesn't use Alexa and co.?
Now, if you count voice assistants on phones, tablets, and laptops/desktops, most probably have access to at least one of those and maybe even most have tried it at least once. I doubt most (as in, over 50%) use them on a regular basis, though. Probably way under half.
Recently I visited the house of the one who does have it for four days. They used it to (a) set timers and (b) ask it odd questions for humor's sake to show it off to me. After an alarm sounded, 25% of the time they would have to request it to stop multiple times. I was unimpressed.
First world arrogance. First world problem.