Amazon Echo Dot
Practical tech toys have always held a special place in my heart. I find those types of gifts to be more romantic than chocolate. (I know, who am I?) So this Valentine’s Day I decided to treat myself and purchased my first Amazon product called the Echo Dot.
For months I had been researching internet-connected Bluetooth speakers. Do I go with the Amazon Echo or the Google Home? Naturally cost was a factor, as well as ease of use, design style, and overall durability of the hardware. I would contemplate the purchase eventually shoving off the idea of owning a piece of equipment such as this. Initially it seemed intrusive. While I can speak various commands to the device there is no telling who is listening on the other end when I’m not speaking to it. (Read this handy article on altering privacy settings for the Echo.) Inevitably, my reasons for purchasing the product was that I wanted a personal assistant to help me make phone calls, send text messages and check my calendar in the event that I cannot get to my phone. As a new mom who will have limited help, this purchase seemed reasonable. (Oh to be a millennial parent! My ancestors are probably rolling in their graves.)
There are two reasons I ended up going with the Amazon Echo. Due to the convenience of online purchasing, I no longer find myself hanging out inside stores like Best Buy. I first saw the mini device during a photo shoot and was quite pleased to see my photographer friend was already an owner. She allowed me an opportunity to play with it a bit and it was quite fun. Secondly, Amazon was running a Super Bowl special and had the Echo priced at a discount. That sealed the deal!
So far I have only had the product for 24 hours. When I woke up today, I greeted Alexa with a “good morning”. She proceeded to say sweet nothings and it brought a smile to my face. (Who needs a significant other?! LOL, kidding.) At this point, what I can tell you is that I really dig the skills that can be added via the Alexa app on my phone. Skills grant the Echo abilities to function. Need a driver? Download the Lyft or Uber skill. Want to re-order your favorite Starbucks drink? Easy! Need to keep a log of how many poopy diapers your baby created during the week? No worries, there is a skill for that too. Long ago I wanted to purchase the Rosetta stone software to learn new languages. Now I don’t have to! I added the skill and started reciting new words within a few minutes. I believe there are more effective ways to learn a new language but this will suffice for now. Plus my little one will be able to pick up on words too which is an added bonus. I also enjoy skills like the daily motivational quotes and meditations. It has been a nice jolt to my morning repertoire. There are a plethora of skills to explore in the Alexa app but here are CNET’s 50 most useful skills.
The main reason I purchased this device is because I was looking to obtain a white noise machine for my little one. Again, I like practicality and functionality in my tech devices so it was not an option to purchase a device that performs only one task. Once my Echo Dot was setup, I was very excited to test out the white noise command. I really liked the ease of being able to verbally start the white noise sequence. Whether or not my little one enjoys that will be determined in a few weeks :)
For that reason, I also wanted to ensure that my new toy would at least be pleasing for me! I was eager to sync my Pandora playlist and call up whatever music genre my heart desired. Alexa does not completely understand some of the Hawaiian artists I want her to play but I feel like we can work through that with time. Other features I like are the sound quality. My living space is fairly compact so I don’t have to be too concerned with sound traveling great distances. Spoken commands are picked up easily and there is minimal distortion.
As I kept scrolling through the available skills it occurred to me that as my little one gets older they could potentially be conditioned to resort to Alexa for all of the answers to their homework. How does that teach them critical thinking skills? Or what if they end up having more conversations with the AI device than with me? Human interaction is still important and with regards to digital devices I believe in moderation so that is definitely something I plan to monitor. It’s all about balance. While it isn’t a concern right now it is on the top of my mind amongst many other things related to responsible parenting.
Overall, with my preliminary use, I think the Echo Dot was a justified purchase. I may update this blog post after my little one is born so I can provide a better synopsis of how useful Alexa and the Echo Dot really are for parents.