A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed a new member into our Miami office here at KLI, LLC. Her name is Alexa and she is an Amazon Echo. Alexa arrived at us in her neat, Amazon prime box and we were all dying to get her up and talking.
In the box came, Alexa and her cord. That was it. Once Alexa was unboxed, all we had to do was plug her in, download the mobile Alexa app to one of our smartphones and she instantly began talking. What could be a more user-friendly start-up?
We had a great deal of fun simply talking to Alexa the first day. We were all eager to ask her various questions and see what her response would be. We asked things such as, “Alexa, how old is Santa Claus?” “Alexa, tell me a joke” (Her response: “What is a dog’s favorite summertime treat? A pup-sicle”) We also had a great deal of fun asking more serious questions such as “What do you think of Siri?”, “Alexa can you pass the Turing test?”, and “Alexa, do you work for the NSA?” (It is important to note that when Alexa was asked if Amazon worked for the CIA, she turned herself off.)
While initially setting up Alexa was very simple, we had a bit of difficulty figuring out how to get Alexa to do small things for us around the office. For instance, in order to play music, you have to link Alexa to a Pandora or Spotify account through the Alexa app. Once linked to Pandora, Alexa only takes station requests. To request specific songs, Alexa must be linked to a Spotify Premium Account as well as an Amazon Music Account. While we spent the time getting Alexa linked to Pandora, we did ask Alexa to sing us a song (which she happily obliged). When you ask, “Alexas, can you tell me the news” she gives you a five-minute overview report from NPR and ends with Alexa giving that day’s forecast.
One thing we were all very excited to try out was having Alexa order us pizza, as we had seen her do this on several advertisements. However, it was not as simple as it sounds. In order to have Alexa order a pizza, you have to download the Domino's app and create a “Pizza Profile” on the Domino’s website. Then you must go into your Amazon Alexa app to add a new skill, essentially installing the app twice. In order to have Alexa place the actual order to Domino’s, you will need to have a recently saved order under your or an “Easy Order” already set up on your Pizza Profile, so much to our disappointment it was not as simple as simply saying “Alexa, order me a large pepperoni pizza”. We tried on two different occasions to get Alexa to order pizza for us, but both times our hunger caused us to ultimately order our lunch through the actual Domino’s website. This process was particularly frustrating because in creating a recently saved order or an “Easy Order” is essentially just going through the online ordering process with the additional steps of downloading the app twice and then talking to Alexa.
In contrast to trying to order pizza, ordering off of Amazon itself is significantly easier. There is no need to download any apps or add a new skill into the Alexa app. By simply saying “Alexa, order coffee” she then cited the last Amazon order that was placed and asked if that was the order we would like to place. After the order was placed, the coffee arrived at our office two days later! We also asked Alexa to order us a stapler and she offered us the Top Result on Amazon, along with the item’s price.
So far we are still figuring out the best ways to optimize our Alexa usage to benefit our office. Up next is attempting to get Alexa to order us an Uber, and even more exciting, to turn on and off the light and potentially even control the thermostat. More updates to follow!
READ MORE: A Day in the Life with an Apple Watch, 3 Tips to Activate the Innovative Side of your Employees , A Brief History of Human-Computer Interaction, What You Should Know About ZeroUI, Tamagotchi Gestures and UX Design, What is Conversational UI?