November Update

Tomorrow is December 1st. Wow! Whoever said that as we age, the days get shorter, wasn’t kidding! This past year has flown by so fast I experienced whip lash while standing still (sigh).

Holiday decorations are going up in the ‘hood. Some businesses had Christmas decorations on display prior to Halloween: HALLOWEEN! PRIOR TO FREAKING HALLOWEEN! (I’m talking to you Safeway.) And, in a few short weeks, it’ll be a new year: 2019.

Speaking of Christmas, … What are you giving this year? Forget clothes or cash: give AI (artificial intelligence)! Most of you have heard, seen or read about Amazon’s Echo® with “Alexa”. Originally costing $49.99, I’ve seen the Echo Dot (smaller version) on sale for $19.99. You shouldn’t pass that up! Bear in mind, AI devices connect to the world via wifi, so you’ll need wifi in your home for the device(s) to work. If you don’t have wifi, how are you reading my blog?

So, what’s “Alexa” do? anything from answering simple questions to complex tasks. “Alexa, what’s the weather?” will produce a forecast of your LOCAL weather taken from some weather-related site. You don’t tell Alexa where you are, she already knows due to her, built-in, GPS. “Alexa, good morning!” results in a stream of Alexa-speak providing you with weather, traffic conditions, news and any other info you want (you DO need to arrange the response questions/behaviors in advance first, then they’re automatically provided to you each time you say “Alexa, good morning!”)

Once you get comfortable talking to Alexa, you will want to begin using her to turn appliances and lights on or off; lock and unlock doors, raise or lower window shades or garage doors, and so much more!

No, I don’t sell Alexa nor do I own any stock in the parent company, Amazon. I’m just an opinionated baby-boomer techie.

Although first to arrive and be met with great enthusiasm, Alexa isn’t alone in the AI space. Apple offers “Siri”®. Microsoft has “Cortana”®. Samsung has “Bixby”®. Google offers Google Home®. While all are similar, each excels at something in order to stand out from the crowd. It’s personal preference that will drive your decision. To help make that decision, talk to neighbors, family and/or friends who have taken the plunge and own one of these devices. Better yet: buy a couple yourself and test them. Google and Amazon each offer their respective low-end models in the $25.00 range and THAT’S CHEAP! They have all the intelligence of the more expensive models, just smaller, less robust speakers.

If not for yourself, think about a relative or friend who has some mobility issues. A voice-operated AI agent can make everyday challenges more do-able: adjusting the thermostat, turning on/off the TV, changing TV channels, brightening or dimming lights, locking and unlocking doors. The list grows nearly every day.

Now they’re being made with display monitors. You can ask Alexa to fins a recipe for Christmas cookies and in addition to explaining, step-by-step, how to make them, ALexa will SHOW you on the screen!

Technology today is providing more and more ways to empower us to do and be more. Give yourself a gift and interact with AI. You’ll wonder why you didn’t get it a couple years ago. More about these devices soon!

What a great time to be alive!!

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