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.