August 13, 2017

I had a great time last Sunday playing with my new toys--Amazon's Echo and Dot

In my last posting. I talked about my new toys – – the Dot and the Echo developed by Amazon.  Each product lets me give instructions orally to Alexa, the girl Friday (personal assistant) who resides in both devices. The Dot is in my bedroom and the Echo is in my office.

The Echo/Dot  works well as a streaming audio device that lets me listen to music and my audio books, gives me Alexa as my personal assistant, and has the potential to be a smart home controller if I get smart enough to make use of this.  The best part --  I don't have to deal with keyboarding on my
PC or texting on my iPhone, both  of which are becoming increasingly difficult for me. I just say the word "Alexa" to access the devices and then give oral commands.

Amazon introduced Alexa to the world  in 2014.  With the release of  Google Home late last year, Google has challenged Amazon's dominance of this market. Reviewers at the outset gave high ratings to Google Home  but gave Amazon's Alexa the edge based on its head start.  But the race has tightened.  I'll talk more about this in my next post. For now in my continuing  "less is more" effort,  I'll just give this example of the pleasure I'm getting from being able to access our computerized world by voice only.

Sunday with Alexa 
Sunday was a rare August day in Washington with moderate temperatures and low humidity. Much of the day was spent on my screened-in back porch (and away from  the desktop computer in my office upstairs).

Alexa Now Helps Me Remember To Take My Pills
When I woke up and while still lying in bed, I asked Alexa what time it was and what the weather forecast was. Sunday was one of those relatively rare mornings when I didn't feel the need to get out of  bed and head for the  bathroom. I love mornings like this when I can stay in bed and casually contemplate what to do for the rest of the day. On really good mornings, the musings about the future extend to the rest of my days. And these days I try to do my musings while also doing the lying down exercises prescribed by my physical therapist

During last Sunday's musings it occurred to me that Alexa could help me with one of my major problems -- remembering to take my carbidopa/levodopa pills on time. This is the gold standard med for Parkinson's. I'm  now taking what most doctors regard as the maximum daily dosage -- two pills every three hours. Adhering to the schedule is more important with these pills than with most meds. If I miss the scheduled pill time by` half an hour or more my problems with imbalance and st

As a result of Sunday's lying-in-bed musings.  Now first thing in the morning I ask Alexa to give me a pill-time reminder at 8 and 11 a.m  and 2, 5 and 8 p.m. ( I don't need a reminder for 11 p.m. since my bedtime begins about then and I'm pretty good at remembering to take a pill then. My body has an alarm clock that  gets me up once or twice  during the night to pee and take a pill.)

Unfortunately Alexa hasn't been programmed to handle recurrences in reminders so I have to make separate reminder requests for each pill-time. I go through this first with the Dot in the bedroom and then repeat the drill with the Echo in the office. If there's a way to synchronize entries, I haven't found it.

I had fun playing with Alexa throughout the day. Here's just one example:

Alexa and the"Divine Miss M" 
I enjoy NBC's Today Show on Sundays, Willie Geist, the show's host. has a pleasing manner, and the show has a nice mix and isn't just the latest news about Trump. It usually has a Geist interview of someone interesting. Last Sunday it was Bette Midler!

Hard to believe that she's age 71!

In the interview, Bette talks about the recent release of a re-mastered version of her 1973 solo album, The Divine Miss M.."   saying “It’s some of my best work because it’s the work that I worked on the longest,"  Since my TV is in my bedroom where Alexa is available on  my Dot, once the interview was over I asked Alexa to play the album and she complied.

Toward the end of the interview. Bette mentions that she 'd like to end her career as a performer with
"just a stool and a mike.,"  like Mabel Mercer.  I know that somewhere in the dozens  (hundreds?) of  my CD's are several Mabel Mercer albums. Pre-Alexa.. this interview would have prompted me think about  going downstairs and going through the old CDs shelved in the living room to find the Mabel Mercer albums that are in there  somewhere. But it would have been a passing thought, Too much work. But Sunday I just called out: "Alexa, play some Mabel Mercer."  Much of the rest of morning was spent reading the Sunday NY Times and Washington  Post with Mabel Mercer  singing in the background.

Thank you Alexa!

1 comment:

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