Amazon echo dot - probably the best thing to happen to AI assistance.
If you’ve ever watched Humans, the Channel 4 series where the world is full of “synths” or robotic assistants, which look and act human – except they don’t eat, feel, sleep and they need connecting to a power source – you’ll know there is some appeal to having your hands free while someone else sweats the small stuff for you.
And the Amazon Echo dot is exactly like that – but without the creepy humanoid following you to every room trying to do your bidding.
Of course you have to start every command with “Alexa” which can get pretty annoying, and makes me feel a bit like when I’m nagging my kids, but stuff gets done and that’s what’s important.
If you can sort out your shopping list, move your morning meetings, order yourself a taxi and get those flowers sent to your mom overseas, all while you’re getting dressed for work, well, that’s a life hack right there.
The obvious differences with the Dot and the Echo are the size and the price. The dot is about R1000 (at the time of writing this) and is minuscule; it’s meant to be used as part of a multiple-device set that is dotted around your home, so you're likely to need more than one. This will mean there’s no interruption to your commands and you don’t have to go shouting around the house, hoping your voice gets picked up. (There is also an Echo Spot, which has a screen and there’s the Echo Plus, which really is just showing off.)
Of course, to be a wholly integrated device, Alexa needs to be in a “smart home”, so she can turn the lights off as and when you say, or the airconditioning or oven.
If you’re not in a “smart home”, Alexa is still useful for general tasks like playing the kind of music you like, telling you what’s happening with the weather or when your next meeting’s going to be. If you have a device connected to Alexa, like your vacuum cleaner for example, then she can get to it and make it work for you.
Of course it’s terrifying that Alexa has access to everything about you, and I do worry she’ll turn the oven on when there’s nothing in it or turn off the thermostat, just for a laugh, because I probably would. But luckily she's not me :)