Alexa was delivered to our house on December 9, 2014. She’s small, thin, black, cylindrical, and sits on our china cabinet, and waits for someone to say her name. She’s always listening.
“Alexa, play Nirvana.”
“Alexa, what’s the weather tomorrow?”
Tomorrow, in Birmingham, you’ll see…
“Alexa, set a timer for 25 minutes.”
Setting a timer for…25 minutes.
As I do with most of the tech that my husband, Brian Moon, brings into the house, I met his description of Alexa with a slow blink and raised eyebrows. But after living with her for a week, I like her. When I cook, I ask her to set a timer for me so that I don’t have to stop whisking to grab my phone to wake up Siri, or mess with the unreliable timer on our 1970s-era oven.
If there’s a draw back to Alexa it’s the way you have to talk to her. I feel a bit rude and demanding, but she accommodates politely with her sophisticated accent. Every time I tell her to set a timer when I put food into the oven, I say thank you to make myself feel better.
We introduced Alexa to our friends on New Year’s Day. My friend, Janet, had the best reaction. She looked up in the direction of the voice and blue light, and with something like a Poltergeist warning uttered, “Oh my God, it’s happening.”
Xbox, Meet Us
I’ve had about 32 years of experience in turning the on the television, but now I have to ask the X Box—“X Box, On”—and still I have to press a button. It’s known Brian since he installed it, and now it knows me since I took to the time to properly introduce myself by registering my face.
The Xbox encourages you to build a relationship with your TV. It signals hello by chirping and popping up a message from Brian’s mii that says “Hi Brian!” I can tell you that he’s completely delighted every single time. Me? I think it’s an odd choice to have a cartoon version of myself saying hello to my human self, and so I feel like a mean girl…”Whatever, Xbox…Hey.” But the whole thing is completely entertaining. I laugh at Brian over his delight, and he laughs at me about my judgment.
I asked Brian how he feels when the Xbox welcomes him to the living room. He says, “Well, I can say that I don’t feel any emotion related to it. It is more about convenience and seeing a glimmer of what could be possible with technology.”
Real Implications & Connections
I was helping a UAB School of Nursing class with an article appraisal assignment and the topic was Ageing In Place. We explored ways that technology could help the elderly stay in their homes longer and more independently. We discussed studies on the use of home monitoring devices, the use of video surveillance, and other seemingly intrusive gadgets. How we introduce technology to our everyday lives is becoming more and more culturally relevant to how we care for our loved ones and ourselves.
Whenever Brian introduces these things to our lives, I immediately think how unnecessary it all is. Then he goes out of town, and I send him a text that it’s cold in the house. Because I know that he can control the thermostat with his phone, I wait on the sofa, in the living room where the Xbox just said hello to me with a bit too much enthusiasm, for the sound of the heat to come through the vents. He texts back, “Better?”
Dare I ask? “Alexa, play a love song.”