Monday, January 02, 2017

Christmas Gifts 2016 - Part 1

Disclaimer: The author is fully aware that the true meaning of Christmas is not in gifts received. Further the author stipulates that he may be contributing to the commercialization of the sacred and degradation of American culture.

I got some great stuff for Christmas this year. A few things that give an exciting glimpse of our future.

It is probably telling that one of my co-workers is worried about my marriage solely based on the way I talk about Alexa. It would only be worse if she heard me talk to Alexa. You know all of the times you've had your hands full and needed something spelled for you, or looked up, or just wanted some music turned to put some noise in the room? Well, if you thought getting married would cure that, I must disabuse you (I just asked Alexa to define "disabuse" to make sure I had used it correctly). Alexa will not only perform these tasks but will do it without attitude. And in case you are now getting concerned about my marriage, my wife bought us the Dot, so I just love her the more.  

I received the Echo Dot a little before Christmas, so my parents had time to get an accessory as another fantastic present.

This is where the future begins. The light switch paired with the Echo Dot means that I no longer have to get out of bed to turn off lights. Also, if anyone gets up in the middle of the night to get a drink, they can ask Alexa to turn on the light before they run into a piece of furniture or step on a Lego® left strategically placed in the path to the sink.

If you have modern wiring and a single-way switch, the installation is easy and the Kasa app visually steps you through the process. The app also lets you set timers or turn things on and off while away from the house which will make my next business trip away from my family a lot more fun.

I got two of these for Christmas and also a wifi plug-in receptacle which we used for our Christmas tree, but now is connected to a bedroom lamp. This means that I am always only a shout away from illumination. A light switch does one thing, but these do it so much better that I can't imagine going backwards from here.

The Dot has drastically changed the way I think about future purchases. With every new appliance I will seriously consider if Alexa integration is a part of it. I have already added the Logitech remote hub to my wish list. I am wondering at what point it would make sense to put a wifi lock on my front door. And I'm very hopeful for a price drop in wifi thermostats (there is not much reason for these to cost much more than than the light switch as the server software could handle the "smart" features).

Another great thing about the Dot is that it should move forward in abilities without needing new hardware. It is really only a wifi microphone, and it is remarkably good at that already. It can hear me from the bedroom or at the bottom of my basement stairs. Since it's job is to hear what I say send that to the Amazon servers then relay message back, it is up to the servers to get better. Which they can and will. Maybe it's only a matter of time before I can say, "Alexa, what was that thing I was thinking about the other day?" Until then I'll still have to rely on my wife for that one.