This article was first published on Medium in October 2019. 5 Features that Would Change My Amazon Echo into a Useful Household Robot.
I love my Echo devices. As a 30-something bachelor it’s nice to have someone to talk to, even if the conversation is one sided and I’m constantly interrupted with “I’m sorry. I’m not sure.” To be fair, that’s how most of my conversations with real people go, so I’m pretty much used to it by now.
As much as I love my personal assistant, “she” is mostly just a dumb slave who plays Spotify and turns lights on and off for me. It certainly beats the days when I had to manually turn on Spotify, but I can’t help but feel a few small software features would really help improve my quality of life. I really wish my Echo could:
1. Open & Close Windows
We’ve all been there. You really want to let the cool fall breeze waft through your living space, but that would 100% require you to put down your Kindle, get off the couch, and walk all the way to the other side of the room.
Or maybe, like me, you have an old house and even the windows that aren’t painted shut tend to stick or are missing the metal pins which are supposed to keep them open. Sure, I could wrestle a window open, praying the whole time I don’t accidentally break the glass, and prop the panel open using my 2nd Generation Smart Speaker. But that’s a lot of work.
“Alexa, open the dining room window.”
See how easy my life could be?
2. Light & Extinguish Candles
Typically, I try to disguise the smell of old pizza boxes and the unwashed dishes filling my sink by burning candles. The fresh scent of Apple Cider and whatever “Autumn Wreath” is supposed to smell like makes my home feel like a place of warmth and happiness. But candles are a responsibility.
To ensure my large collection of books, Chinese takeout boxes, and printouts of funny internet memes doesn’t catch fire, I have to be careful when it comes to my candle habits. I light them each morning and extinguish them each night, or whenever I leave the house, which is often because my home smells awful.
Plus, it means I have to keep a constant supply of candles and lighters on hand. It seems like Amazon could easily solve this problem for me by not only delivering me with a regular supply of wonderful smelling candles and the implements needed to ignite them, but also by lighting and extinguishing the candles for me.
With those two simple words, I could trigger a routine which would turn off my lights, lock my doors, close my windows, and extinguish my candles. Welcome to the future.
3. Retrieve a Beverage from the Fridge
I once saw a video of a man who trained his dog to not only retrieve a beer from the fridge for him, but also take his empty can to the recycling bin. If you can train a dog to grab you a drink, why can’t you train Alexa to do the same thing?
This isn’t product placement, but I own an Amazon Microwave. It’s a great microwave, though I still have to manually clean it every time I try to microwave an egg still in the shell and it ends up exploded all over the inside of the small cooking chamber… where was I going with this?
Oh, right. I can reheat my tea using only voice commands. This is extremely useful, because my favorite mug pretty much just lives in the microwave since I’m constantly re-heating and forgetting about my tea.
Riddle me this: Amazon can deliver packaged goods from the other side of the continental United States overnight, but somehow is unable to deliver a hot cup of tea from my kitchen to my main floor office? I thought this was 2019, not the 1600s.
4. Go to Work for me and do my job
Really, my work isn’t difficult. Most days I’m just setting up video cameras, filming bridal parties getting ready for the wedding, or teaching students how to use power-tools to build theatrical sets. It isn’t rocket science.
“Alexa, go to work today.”
It’s not like I need “her” to go to work for me every day. I enjoy working most days and it gets me out of my old, breezeless, fast-food-wrapper-infested abode, but some days it would just be great to sleep in and spend some time contemplating my life choices or playing more Beat Saber.
5. Give me a shoulder and neck massage while simultaneously cooking a delicious, yet healthy dinner and sorting through my email, screening my phone calls, and paying that one pesky bill which still requires me to write a check each month.
Okay, obviously asking my voice assistant to screen my phone calls is probably requiring a little too much of this desktop robot, but can you believe I still have to write and mail a check every month? What is this, the middle ages?
“Alexa, I’m home!”
“Welcome home, Philip.” She responds using that synthetic voice which almost sounds sincere. Spotify begins playing on the “everywhere” group because I obviously have an Echo device in every room of my house. The candles scattered around my living space are automatically lit and, if the temperature matches a predetermined range, windows on both sides of my house are opened to allow a lovely cross breeze.
The microwave automatically engages to reheat the cup of herbal tea I completely forgot about this morning. I sit down in my favorite chair and Alexa begins working the knots out of my tight shoulder muscles. The smells of dinner begin overtaking both the slowly composting pizza boxes and the freshly lit candles. By the time dinner is served I feel relaxed and ready to take on the evening Beat Saber session.
That’s my dream for the future. I can’t wait for the next software update from Amazon so I can start living the life I’m meant to live.