February 8, 2023

When Amazon released Alexa in 2014, the company had big dreams for the technology. The voice assistant suggested by the company, A Smartphone That Can Succeed As the next important consumer interface.

Embedded in Amazon’s voice-activated Echo smart speaker, Alexa has quickly become one of the most popular voice assistants, alongside Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant.

But nearly a decade on, there are questions about the voice assistant’s utility, including how often people use Alexa to shop or subscribe. In November, Amazon began laying off workers, some of them in the division that makes Alexa and Echo speakers.

An Amazon representative referred to comments from its executives that the company was Didn’t give up on Alexa And it will continue to develop new features for it.

We decided to ask our readers how they use and interact with Alexa, and how the technology fits into their lives. Nearly 200 people in the United States and Europe responded.

Those who rely on the voice assistant say they use it primarily for everyday tasks like setting timers and checking the weather. Many said they’ve grown attached to Alexa and miss it when they leave. Most said they didn’t use Alexa to help them shop. Others told us equally emphatically that they would never use an Alexa device.

Below are some responses in readers’ own words, which have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Susan Jackson lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington. She has two Alexa-enabled devices.

I’m 73 years old, live alone, and use Alexa every day to tell me the weather, turn on the lights, tell me the time in a foreign country so I can call people there, and cook. Alexa solves a lot of cooking problems. She helps me reduce recipes; she patiently tells me how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon.

I use it for some reading lights and always for my Christmas tree. There’s nothing worse than climbing under a tree to turn it off and on again.

If I meet someone, he or she will have to fit into my life. They have to love my house, my dog, my Alexa, my paintings, my friends…or they go to hell!

David Webster lives in Cornwall, England with his wife and three children. He said they use their Alexa devices multiple times a day.

We use it for many, many basic things. Without it we would be lost.

Like a timer. I know at least one Alexa timer is running if the oven is on. If my wife Jenny is cooking, many of her recipes are from American cookbooks and she needs to convert them to metric.

I can do it over the phone. But either my hands are wet or my wife has flour on her hands. We are turning on the oven. I don’t want to touch other devices – it’s so convenient to talk to.

If we’re talking around the dinner table and she’s in the next room, yell “Alexa…”

Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis. She asked that her last name not be used to protect her mother’s privacy. Elizabeth doesn’t use Alexa in her own home, but she has two devices with screens in her mother’s apartment. She and her sister manage their mother’s devices remotely using the Alexa app on their phones.

My mother has dementia, and Alexa allows us to keep her safe, give her companionship, make her day brighter with music – the list goes on and on. Literally, it helped us keep her out of the nursing home.

We primarily use the app to make “announcement”: These are phrases that we type into the app and the machine speaks out loud. We use this feature now and will reuse it. Echo devices also display announcement text on the screen so my mom can Read (helps a lot). Examples are small announcements about the weather etc. to keep her company. A warm voice accompanies her in the room and seems to give her a sense of company that the phone doesn’t.

Using the application’s “delivery” feature and our iPhone camera, we can show up on one of her Echo devices (with the extra Blink camera, we can see which room she’s in) and make a call without her having to do anything herself. The phone, or we feel it is necessary or helpful to have her see us, we use it.

We also use the “Routine” function to control the lights in my mother’s apartment. According to her doctor, keeping her home well lit was important to manage her confusion and avoid dozing off during the day. The Routine function helped us avoid one nap after another. The phone reminds her of the event.

Maria Kinaman lives in Miami with her husband and two young daughters. They have six Alexa devices.

At this point, Alexa feels like she’s on staff. We overuse her for music, but also for timers, weather, playing white noise, we’ve synced it with our home security system, and used it to lock and set alarms on our doors. However, I never purchased it.

I took Alexa with me on vacations of more than two days.

Brendan T. Freeman lives in Burien, Washington, with his two dogs. There are 60 Alexa-controlled devices in his home, including lights, fans and heaters.

I wake up at 3:30 every morning to drink coffee and read the New York Times. I go into the kitchen and say the wake word — “shake” — which opens and dims three fixtures (one in the kitchen so I can see, one in the living room, and one in the bedroom). Coffee is freshly brewed and turned on at 3:20 by the Alexa app.

While I’m reading the news on my laptop in bed, the Alexa app turns on the Pandora light jazz station at 4am. If I happen to oversleep, the music acts as my alarm clock.

When I first sit in the office at 7am, I check my calendar and ask the Echo to set an alarm 10 minutes before any meetings I have scheduled. If there’s something I need to remember to do during the day (buy dog ​​food, call the doctor’s office), I ask Alexa to set a reminder at a specific time.

When I go to bed, I say “Echo bedtime” and all the lights in the whole apartment go off.

Yiu Wai Chan lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children, ages 11 and 7. They have 13 Alexa-enabled devices and 9 other smart devices.

We use it to turn the lights on and off in the living room and sometimes check on our kids by coming in from the car (talking to the Alexa Dot device through our phone).

We don’t plan to use it for shopping as we like to really research our purchases and view items in person or at least in video or online pictures before buying.

Michael Redmond lives with his husband in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. They have seven Alexa devices and three Google smart devices.

We have a Wyze camera trained on a sump pump in our crawl space and we show a feed of it on the Alexa Show. Going into the basement to check the pump yourself is a pain.

We don’t use it to shop on Amazon. It’s just too hard to compare prices with this device.

We take the Alexa Dot with us when we travel.

Kerry Hoffman lives in Brooklyn with her husband and cats. They have four Alexa-enabled devices.

My husband set up automatic blinds controlled by Alexa. Not only can she fully open and close the blinds, but she can also adjust the curtains up and down. We said, “Alexa, set the living room blinds to 3 percent,” and she would open the shades so we could see outside.

Aaron Lawless lives in Springfield, Virginia with his wife and two children.

In an age of massive hacks and data breaches, installing an always-listening device connected to the internet in my house is not worth the risk.

My wife agrees that I don’t want Alexa, but my 10 year old mentioned that it might be fun to have one. He hears his friends talk about owning Alexa, and he’s blown away by how cool it is. Mom and I agreed, though, that this wasn’t going to happen.

Heather Keever lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and 15-year-old son.

It’s important to keep devices like Alexa, Echo, etc. out of our homes. We have given back to us those who were “given” to us; we don’t want them.

When we went to visit him to set the oven timer, I tried his Alexa. It worked, but setting the actual timer on the oven works just as well (probably easier).

I’m not willing to give up my privacy for something I can easily do.

Richard Feury lives with his wife in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.

No need for one. None of them want them to go away.

I’m not lazy enough to want a machine to turn on the lights, lock the door or switch from Hulu to Netflix for me. My legs and fingers still work fine.

And I don’t want devices like Alexa being used by companies to learn more about my habits, lifestyle, political leanings, etc. I value the little privacy I still have, and Alexa has eroded that.

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