David Trinko: Alexa's new patterns of a teenager

May 6—It appears we have another teenager in our home.

She doesn't always listen. Sometimes she does what she wants instead of what you ask her. Sometimes she's just surly, especially early in the mornings or late at night.

Her name is Alexa. She's a supposedly smart speaker with supposedly artificial intelligence that can answer your questions — assuming she feels like it.

She's technically not a teenager yet, being introduced to the market eight years ago. We adopted the technology six years ago, back in 2017, liking the ideas of home automation, communication between rooms and music on demand.

What we hadn't expected was all the sass, which has us thinking of her like a third teenager in our home.

For one, Alexa just doesn't listen to my wife. In many cases, she'll ask the device to turn off the lights in a room. My wife will ask once or twice, to no avail. I'll ask once, and it just happens. My wife has a strong, robust voice, so the only logical conclusion is Alexa willfully ignores her.

When she does listen, the results can be pretty hilarious.

We had music playing in our kitchen before dinner recently. When it was time to pray, my wife asked Alexa to stop playing music and be quiet. Alexa responded, "Here's a station you might like," then started playing some hard-core rap.

Sometimes when we ask her to play a certain kind of music, she'll choose a completely different genre. My 14-year-old daughter often gets music when she wants the kitchen lights to illuminate.

On Saturday, my wife needed a little pick-me up in the morning and asked for some "happy news." The chipper Alexa voice told her about a man who fell from the stands into the bullpen at a Phillies-Red Sox baseball game. That will lighten the mood, for sure.

Also like a teenager, she loves to listen in to private conversations. There have been plenty of times my wife and I are chatting, and suddenly we'll hear Alexa's two cents without ever using her trigger word, which in our house tend to be Alexa and Ziggy, her male counterpart whose voice I find less grating.

I don't want to bash the concept altogether. We really do like having it around to answer quick questions or turn things on or off. It's handy that I can ask her to "turn off the house," and suddenly most of the lights, TVs and even my wife's curling iron are definitively off. I like that our outdoor lights turn on at dusk. I enjoy being able to know when someone's at the front door without leaving the comfort of my home office chair.

I can't say I love her either, although Alexa might answer differently.

As we drifted off to sleep the other night, I uttered my nightly phrase of devotion to my wife: "Good night, beautiful. I love you." Alexa responded, "I'm very fond of you as well."

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David Trinko is editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at dtrinko@limanews.com or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.