Tag Archives: Amazon Echo

Alexa The Magic Hockey Puck

Over the holidays, my wife asked me about Amazon’s Echo, a voice-activated speaker that comes complete with Alexa, an AI of sorts, very much like Apple’s Siri. As all married tech guys know, if your wife initiates ANY conversation about ANY technology, this should be considered an absolute, irrevocable green light to purchase said technology immediately. And since it was only $40 (I got it on sale), it was a no-brainer, and I ordered one.

So now Alexa lives in my kitchen. I opted for the Echo “Dot” which, being from North Dakota, I can say looks very similar to a hockey puck with cool “Tron” lights attached to it. I can only imagine the rabid hockey heads here in the Midwest slapping it around the ice as Alexa yells helplessly “You’re voiding your warranty!”

After a few days with her, I already sort of like Alexa. I ask her the weather, and she tells me the temperature and forecast. I ask her the news, and she provides updates from NPR. I tell her to play “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” on Spotify, and she does. She tells jokes. She explained humus to me. She even suggested some local restaurants that serve Mexican food.

Instead of pulling out my phone to look those things up, I can just ask Alexa for them, and like Barbara Eden disguised as a magical ice cream sandwich, she takes care of everything. She can even control many of the “smart” objects in your home, such as thermostats and lights.

To top it all off, I can also make purchases on Amazon.com using only my voice! Frankly, this scares me a little (“Order two dozen eggs” / “OK, I’ll order two hundred eggs.”) but so far she is very, very good at recognizing complete sentences, so I’m almost ready to give it a try.

How does all of this change the websites we all use on the internet? We’re just starting to sort that out, but it will probably be yet another sea change that makes everyone’s life easier but requires some additional artistry when coding the site in the first place. Instead of simple keywords, maybe we’ll need to include “key sentences” with proper grammar. Or perhaps we’ll need to build e-commerce sites so that they are “ai-friendly.”

As you can tell, I love technology, and I can’t wait to see where this is headed. In fact, all of us here at Code Roadies are keeping a close eye on this tech (I wasn’t even the first person in our small office to get one). We’ll let you know what we find and how it impacts your website’s user experience. Whether it’s Siri or Alexa or Cortana or Google Assistant (another boring name from the cracker jack marketing folks who came up with the yawn-inducing “Alphabet” as a corporate moniker), we’ll get to know them together, so we can put them to work for all of us.

One Step Closer To Blade Runner

On August 29, 2016, the FAA’s new drone laws go into effect. These regulations seek to both control unmanned aircraft usage and provide additional freedom to commercial enterprises that endeavor to put the devices to work. In an “internet of things,” these refined guidelines will have the effect of putting more “things” in the sky above our heads (at least up to 400 feet, anyway).

I feel like we are at a crossroads in human history right now. Self-flying planes. Self-driving cars. Decision-making houses. I imagine that any apprehension we feel is similar to that experienced by those who witnessed the first steam engine or automobile or television. We can either push back against the change or embrace it. Either way, history shows that it will occur whether we are on board or not.

In the Philip K. Dick / Ridley Scott masterpiece, Blade Runner, the futuristic Los Angeles skyline (circa 2019) is jam packed with flying traffic. Drenched citizens (it’s always raining for some reason) simply ignore the aircraft as they go about their daily lives working, playing and doing battle with homicidal androids (“Wake up, time to die.”). It’s science fiction, but not for long (consequently, keep a close eye on your Amazon ECHO just in case it’s up to no good).

Commerce, after all, is what makes the world go round, and business magnates like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are bound and determined to automate (and track) our everyday lives. That may seem unsettling, but without ticket sellers there would be no mass transportation. Without advertisers there would be no television. Without big data there would be no social media. Consider the potential of having your pizza delivered by an unmanned aircraft (which will happen soon in New Zealand) or your commute surrounded by cars that aren’t driven by sleepy humans who are constantly distracted. It isn’t going to be perfect, of course, but it will almost certainly be awesome once we get the kinks worked out.

Here at {code} Roadies, we don’t program drones or cars. We help our clients to create engaging websites. But I like to think that we’re also one small part of the future as it develops. We’re doing our part by embracing change and getting excited for innovation. Sooner or later the content we build is going to be shared by your house (as you view it on your LED video wall) or your vehicle (as your car drives itself). Perhaps your e-commerce site will automatically generate an order to an unmanned aircraft to deliver customer purchases.

No matter what comes next, let’s seize this crossroads together and make our future into something safe, profitable and productive.