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This weekend I decided I wanted to buy something. I don't really want much so I'm usually completely stuck when it comes to shopping therapy (hence a scooter from 2008 and another from 2003). It's not that I have everything and more I just don't want anything. I ended up buying one of those smart speaker things from Amazon as an experiment and so far I really like it. I only got the little echo dot as I fancied connecting it to a larger speaker system anyway. I'm now on Spotify and thinking up music I haven't heard for decades. I'm now trying to resist the urge to buy computer controlled lighting / plugs / thermostat.
I might even get the Google home version to keep her company while I'm at work.
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I may just try one of those. Sounds interesting.

That last statement is actually very prescient as it's only a matter of time before they really do have some level of both awareness and ability to relate.
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I'd heard about them a while back but didn't think much about it. The new dots cost £50 here (coupled with £10/month Spotify) and I just figured why not. I've only been playing with it for a few hours but it seems to work well - I finds and plays most music I can think of, gives me the news, tells me the weather, does alarms etc, keeps lists etc etc. I might just go for the Google version when it comes out here in the UK just to see how it compares.

The biggest plus is it's a music system that my computer-phobe of a wife might be able to use (the media player is a lost cause). I also quite fancy the idea of voice controlling a few coloured lamps, the thermostat, my favourite lava lamp and maybe even try some home security.

The nice thing about the dot (apart from the fact it's quite cheap) is that it easily connects to speakers (wire or bluetooth) while the Google unit means you have to buy a "gadget". The big advantage of the Google one is that it has a more natural voice control - I was trying out the dot's general knowledge and asked what the new name of Constantinople was - it took a few rephrases of the question before it got it right. Saying that, for normal music playing and standard tasks it seems pretty accurate at understanding what I'm saying.

I don't we're far off on the AI side either - it will almost certainly be the google version that will converse first. The brain will probably sit on their servers rather than in the little device. I guess the future is rushing at us quite quick at the moment. I'll probably let it work it's way up to taking over the world by starting with a voice chess program.
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We unplugged ours, she frequently says: "I'm sorry, I didn't understand" or some such. We have to whisper when we complain about the political situation, lol
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It's supposed to only listen when you say "Alexa" and ours stays asleep the rest of the time. I suppose it might be a problem if someone in the family is called Alexa though - I guess you could change their name by deed poll or something. But in this day and age where every post goes through Google's profiling system (as well as NSA and GCHQ) it's hard to pick out Amazon as doing anything different. I guess the only recourse is to stop using any form of communications (electronic or verbal) and move to Iceland or Idaho.

PS No doubt I'll start to get adverts for cheap flights to Iceland next. Along with yet more dating services for girls with Russian sounding names. Hey ho.
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I was given one for Christmas but returned it - after reading through its capabilities, I decided that Alexa wasn't going to do much that Siri and a couple of smart timers don't already do perfectly well. Plus I was bullied by a girl called Alexa in middle school so I didn't really fancy having someone of that name meddling with my lamps and lying to me about train times etc.
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I just use mine to tell me the weather and temperature outside. It can do today, tomorrow, and even next week.
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I am full-on using Alexa. I have been building a smart home using the following:

- Smart LEDs (most of the house)
- Smart garage door opener
- Honeywell smart thermostat
- Honeywell moisture sensors
- Denon HEOS speakers on all floors
- Security system
- Wink smart hub
- Rachio irrigation
- Pioneer iControlAV smart home theater control

Through Alexa I can verbally listen to music, news and weather. I can control the temperature of my home, adjust the light temperature, color and brightness as well as turn them on and off. I especially like the timer features and alarms. I am stoked to be able to control my sprinkler system via Alexa when the weather warms up.

It's a lot of fun!
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genie wrote:
Plus I was bullied by a girl called Alexa
I didn't even think that Alexa was a real name! You could change her name to something else and she'll respond to that. Oddly though you can't seem to change the voice - I can see how the voice appeals to 50% of the population but you'd think they'd have an option for a George Clooney type voice and perhaps a stick on beard for the "ladies".
Paddlenround wrote:
I am full-on using Alexa. I have been building a smart home using ...
I must admit I have a inkling I might go a little along that route. I like the idea of a few coloured lights I can dim around the place, I can see powered things that would be fun to turn off and on, the thermostat thing is a sure winner too as currently I have no thermostat at all and need to dive into the back of the airing cupboard to make any changes. Curious how the garage door thingy works though - isn't that a security risk?
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I'm an early adopter on Alexa, Amazon had a pre-release special which I took advantage of about 18 months ago. My logic was Alexa is nothing more than a conduit to Amazon and the computing is done in the cloud, so it's never really obsolete. The microphone technology on Alexa is really good and the the speaker on the full sized unit is very impressive. So the hardware is excellent.

The real question is do we get real value from it, the answer is no at the moment. We use it for music more than anything, Prime music only. The real issue is we're not accustomed to giving voice commands to a computer in everyday life. We could use it to adjust our Nest thermostats but we still do it by hand or using a smart phone. We don't use the shopping list feature although it works well, we don't use the alarm capability, which also works well, nor the traffic capability, etc. I think it's just that we haven't transitioned to the 21st century, but I'm trying to make that leap.
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My son got one for Christmas. It quickly lost it charm and now sits in a box filled with old game controllers. Probably not a bad thing as my nephew pointed out that it's never really off and listen to every word spoken.
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robinm wrote:
Paddlenround wrote:
I am full-on using Alexa. I have been building a smart home using ...
I must admit I have a inkling I might go a little along that route. I like the idea of a few coloured lights I can dim around the place, I can see powered things that would be fun to turn off and on, the thermostat thing is a sure winner too as currently I have no thermostat at all and need to dive into the back of the airing cupboard to make any changes. Curious how the garage door thingy works though - isn't that a security risk?
Alexa is still expanding the options for a lot of things. Every day new "skills" get introduced. The garage door doesn't work with Alexa but it does work well with the Wink hub. Now that I have passed the milestone of 50, I was constantly question whether or not I closed the door. Not only can I control it from my phone, I can check its status when I am away. I also receive notifications when it opens or closes. It's a nice additional security measure.

PM me about a thermostat. I need to check but I might be able to help you. One of my clients makes them. I just need to see if I have one with UK support. I would need to know minor details about your boiler to see if it's compatible. No promises but if I have one, it's yours.
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Paddlenround wrote:
PM me about a thermostat. I need to check but I might be able to help you. One of my clients makes them. I just need to see if I have one with UK support. I would need to know minor details about your boiler to see if it's compatible. No promises but if I have one, it's yours.
It's very kind of you to offer regards the thermostat but I suspect there'd be problems between the different power supplies etc. I'm sure there'd be an official one available here but I'll certainly send you a PM if not.
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Definitely interesting but I'm not sure what the police would hope to gain. I'm certain the Amazon would store the text of past "commands" but the idea of storing all sounds within earshot seems a little weird - the storage required would be huge (and very costly) and I can't picture anything useful they could gain from it. Obviously they might store commands that they couldn't understand - this might allow them to make the device better understand commands in future. If the murdered guy shouts out "Alexa, I'm being murdered by fred" then it might be useful ... but it seems unlikely.

Most likely the police are hoping to scare the charged guy by telling him they've got the recordings on the device and are hoping for a confession. Saying all that I could picture the NSA or GCHQ requesting to listen on certain peoples devices.
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robinm wrote:
Paddlenround wrote:
PM me about a thermostat. I need to check but I might be able to help you. One of my clients makes them. I just need to see if I have one with UK support. I would need to know minor details about your boiler to see if it's compatible. No promises but if I have one, it's yours.
It's very kind of you to offer regards the thermostat but I suspect there'd be problems between the different power supplies etc. I'm sure there'd be an official one available here but I'll certainly send you a PM if not.
I may have a UK version. I need to check.
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Gloria wrote:
http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/tech/amazon-echo-alexa-bentonville-arkansas-murder-case/.

Interesting, eh?
The reality of all these new stories, the CIA, hacking and other twists and turns with smart tech is that when you have a device that can listen, it can hear. You have to accept that ALL tech can be hacked. NOTHING is safe. If you can live with that, then you shouldn't be overly concerned unless you are doing something illegal. I don't imagine the CIA has any interest in me unless riding Vespas becomes a crime.

I am a big advocacy for privacy and I believe when I purchase a product that the company I buy it from has an obligation to keep it private. However, I am not naive enough to believe that I am completely private using these devices. Anything you put out to the Internet is out there forever. The only truly private thing you have is your brain.
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... and no different from owning a mobile phone. I suppose most folk have a phone with a camera and most likely a GPS which probably makes it worse. Or having a Samsung TV. Or a PC with a connected web cam. Or a smart watch ...
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e careful what you say in front of her. She ratted out her owner when he killed someone. Razz emoticon True woman because she can't keep a secret. Wha? emoticon In this case that was a good thing but if your married and your seeing someone on the side, your screwed. Literally and figuratively. Laughing emoticon
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Bought some fancy speakers for the little thing today. I ordered them on-line and then went to pick up in person. I was a bit taken back by the size of the box as it was roughly the same size as me standing (weighed a bit to) - I guess I should read the descriptions a little closer. Perhaps also of ordered home delivery rather than picking them up by scooter. The guy in the store saw my helmet and laughed "Good Luck!". I thought for a moment I was going to get lectured my a motorbike cop at the lights but the lights changed before he managed to pull along side. This was just as well as I was trying to keep my foot out of sight so he couldn't see that it was in a cast from the hospital.


PS Making the little dot thing talk reliably to the speaker over bluetooth seems to be a bit of a pain. I was hoping for a little more ease of use by also better sound clarity from the set up. I guess I'll need to test the speaker from other sources to see where the problem is.
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This is the beginning of Skynet. These "helpful and friendly" devices will soon rise up against us. Be prepared.






















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