Living with Alexa
The Echo Dot makes you feel like you live on the Enterprise or some other spaceship ... except ... in a weird alternate reality where you have to wander through dark corridors and turbolifts get stuck all the time
It's a great feeling for me to come home after a long day of work. I only want to sleep. Sleep as long as possible. So I enter my bedroom and utter "Alexa, turn the bedroom light on". I want to use my remaining strength to plug my various energy craving devices in. Let them recharge their batteries while I recharge mine. But, instead of the cozy warm glow from my Philips Hue light I get a blue green blinking Echo Dot. It's sitting there, on my nightstand, almost staring at me with it's completely puzzled cyano-blue look as if I asked it to accomplish some insurmountable task. I return the puzzled look. For a while we just stare at each other, then, Alexa breaks the silence: "Bedroom isn't responding."
Not this again ...
"ALEXA, DISCOVER DEVICES!"
Then I quickly get up, hurry into my living room to press the button on my Hue bridge. I do that as at this point I'm sure Alexa will instruct me to do so. I could just shout: "ALEXA, GO PRESS THE DAMN BUTTON YOURSELF!" - but what good would that do?
30 seconds later it happily finds all devices again and I'm finally able to turn the light on, plug the devices in, switch the light off and go to sleep. But now I'm mad. Why didn't I just leave the regular bulb in and use a regular light switch? Why can't they get something as simple as switching lights on and off to work reliably?
Then I'm reminded about how poorly the whole thing is engineered:
- I live in Austria, but I want my devices to be in English. This is just impossible with Amazon (see another blog post). Now I can't even manage my Alexa Skills anymore. I can keep my existing skills, but I can't add or delete them since the app now only instructs me to switch everything to German.
- At least they got the newsbrief running, it tells me: "Here are the headlines from Taggiskau in one hundred scunden". After which I get an audio playback . I would have preferred other news outlet but I can live with that. At least it comes from a high quality source.
- The Hue bulbs support various color temperatures and "scenes". But for now that only works in the US. My Alexa App and phone are configured for US English, but that doesn't matter. They probably use my real location. Can't have those Europeans test out new features, right?
- To actually change the color temperature I have to go through IFTTT or some other service. That makes the wording awkward: "Alexa, trigger relax mode in the living room" and causes a few seconds delay as the message runs around the entire globe. Seriously, it goes from my Echo Dot to the Amazon data center, to IFTTT, to Philips server somewhere and back to my home into my hue bridge. Wow, for being a "smart" home solution this is pretty dumb.
.. and, yeah, I've tried to contact Amazon about those issues a couple of times - either I get some canned response not applicable to my problem or just no response at all.
"Alexa, wake me up at eight AM."