Alexa as service, Echo as interface

Today, Amazon released new versions of its tablets, as well as a new Fire TV. The latter is generating interest in part because Alexa has been added to it. This means you can use the new Fire TV in a manner similar to the Echo, and be able to play favorite TV shows, too.

The new device supports the new 4K Ultra HD in addition to 1080p, promises to eliminate buffering, supports all the popular streaming apps, and has voice search enabled on the remote. I hope Amazon has improved the remote, because I’ve found that Echo’s remote is no where near as sensitive as the Echo device is, itself.

I like the video support, but I have a Roku and I don’t have a 4K Ultra HD TV, yet. What I’m more interested in, is the Alexa integration. Watching the demo video at Amazon, Alexa will display an answer to the TV rather than verbally.  (Engadget notes this, also.) If you have it play music, it uses your TV’s speakers.

Of course, this is a double-edged sword. If you have an Echo and the new Fire TV in the same room, you’re going to have contention over which device answers when you call out, “Alexa…”. While watching the Amazon demonstration video, my Echo responded when the voice in the video asked, “Alexa, what’s the weather?” I’m rather hoping that Amazon gets away from only allowing one to use Alexa, or Amazon, as the device voice indicator.

I’m also assuming you do have to have the TV on for the device to work. Currently I use Echo’s timer functionality, as well as have it play music while I’m working. I wouldn’t want to turn my TV on for both. In this regard, Echo wins. Echo also has smart home integration, which the Fire TV currently lacks.

From a developer perspective, the Fire TV demonstrates Amazon’s new Alexa Voice Service Developer Preview. If you’re a developer, and you have a device with a microphone, a speaker, and an internet connection, you can interface with Alex as a service. First thing that comes to my mind is this opens up some interesting possibilities if you like to tinker around with microcomputers, such as Raspberry Pi. However, I’m not sure how open Amazon is to people tinkering with the service. The sign-up for the developer kit seems to assume you’re a developer for a company with a product to sell.

Like Roku.

This new developer kit joins with the existing Alexa  Skills Kit, where you can create an app that can be installed on an Echo (and possibly other Alexa devices, eventually), such as my favorite, Cat Facts.

Node.js developers, note that Node.js figures heavily with both kits. See? Your mad  programming skills just found a new outlet to explore.

Amazon made, what I feel, is a very smart move with its recent innovations. Rather than compete directly with device companies who control marketplaces, such as Roku, it’s taking the same type of functionality (video streaming), and integrating it into the smart home controller environment. It’s similar to Google’s new OnHub, which takes Wi-Fi routing into the same environment.

Exciting times. Let’s just hope security is considered first, rather than last, with all this cross-line innovation.

 

It was never about the guys

Jonathon juxtaposed two quotes within a posting – a serious one from a woman questioning whether she would ever meet the man of her (overly perfect) dreams; and a rather humorous exchange between guys on IRC.

In response to a comment attached to the posting, Jonathon also stated:

An alternative reading of the (ironically) juxtaposed quotes might draw attention to the earnest self-centeredness of the woman compared to the easygoing self-deprecating humor of the men. Or to the failure of thirty years of feminist theory to effect a truly fundamental change in men’s thinking.

Leaving aside questions of earnest self-centeredness and self-deprecating humor based on choice of quotes, I wanted to focus on Jonathon’s statement about feminist theory effecting fundamental change in men’s thinking.

I’m not surprised that thirty years of feminist theory, or practice for that matter, haven’t instituted major changes in the male thought processes – feminism was never about changing men’s thinking. It was always about changing women’s thinking.

We can’t say to men, “Look, you have to change your evil ways and start treating us equally”, when we’re not willing to make changes ourselves. And we definitely can’t expect to have our cake and eat it, too.

For instance, do we as women see ourselves as nurturers first, and then as unique human beings? If we do, then we women haven’t achieved the growth and change we need to make. Women are far more interesting and capable then just being baby incubators and brood mares. As part of our complexity, we can be excellent mothers and wonderful mates, but that’s not the sum and total of what we are. Until we start respecting our own uniqueness and individuality, we can’t demand that men look beyond the stereotype we’re perpetuating.

We say that society puts women into a position and keeps us there, but if all women said “Enough of this bullshit”, society wouldn’t have a chance. If we women as a whole rejected the stereotypes, refused to compromise ourselves, didn’t play the “woman” game, change – real change – would occur. And it starts with us, not the guys. It was never about the guys.

Saying that change must start with men perpetuates male-centeredness and denies women any say in this change – yet again another, albeit extremely subtle, stereotype.

And as for humor….

IRC Quote 1834:
[09:50] Hey, anyone who knows Japanese, what does “kikurimu” mean?
[09:52] “I am a preteen with bouncing breasts.”
[09:53] There are probably three or four words for that.
[09:53] Sort of like the Eskimos having so many words for snow.

IRC Quote 6918:
I don’t like pamela anderson type breasts
Their remote controls are annoying and not well documented.

IRC Quote366
“Too few women on the internet?
There are lots of women on the internet,
only most of them are naked and in JPG-format.”

A day in the life of a technical architect

Client: When can you tell me what you think of the software?

Me: When do you need the evaluation?

Client: Tomorrow.

Me: Tomorrow?

Client: Yes, we’re meeting with our clients tomorrow.

-sigh-

Me: Well, what’s the potential user load for the software

Client: Half a million customers

-pause-

Me: At once?

Client: Yes. What do you think it will take?

Me: A miracle