She's sort of just sitting there, her sleek round cylindrical body looks poised and well placed on the table, blending in with the background yet appearing distinct and noticible.
"Alexa, play Summer of '69 by Bryan Adams," I beg her for the tenth time.
"I'm sorry, I could not understand-," she replies before I cut her off and proceed to wonder how far I could fling her out the window.
This is life with Alexa or as you may know her better as the Amazon Echo, the American e-commerce giant's voice activated smart home hub.
Like any marriage, life with Alexa (the name Amazon set for the device) can be described as equal parts ecstatic joy and hair-pulling frustration. When it works well, there is nothing quite as intuitive out there. But when it doesn't, it reminds you once more why voice recognition tech is sometimes seen as nothing more than an over-hyped gimmick.
For the uninitiated, the Echo is a 9in tall matte black cylindrical device that is being touted as the next big leap in home automation. It has the ability to sync with a variety of smart-home devices such as Phillip's Hue bulbs and Belkin WeMo devices and lets the user control these devices with their voice alone.
The Echo also pulls double duty as a wireless voice-activated speaker, allowing you to stream music from sources such as Spotify, Amazon Prime and TuneIn Radio. It's also a full-fledged personal assistant in the vein of Apple's Siri in that it can answer basic trivia questions, tell some really terrible jokes and remind you who America's 18th President was.
In theory, the Amazon Echo sounds like an amazing device and for the most part it is. But three months on, a lot of the fun in this relationship has died down and Echo's flaws are getting harder and harder to ignore.
First of all, the device is not officially supported in Singapore. This means we can't use a lot of the location-based services that our friends in the US can. On top of that, Echo does not sync time based on location so if you ask her for the time, you should be well-versed at converting global time.
You can buy the device locally from online retailers such as Lazada, but at RM1080 it's a bit pricey compared to the US$149 (RM620) I paid for on Amazon (you have to arrange for your own delivery though).
I remember the first few days being great as I played with the Echo exploring different functions, playing music and generally being rather enraptured by this awesome piece of tech. It really did remind me of the computer from Star Trek. It was also great as a party piece with anyone coming to the house being intrigued by my new toy.
Fast forward to today and the sad truth is that I have not even turned on the device in about a week. Quite frankly, Echo does nothing that my mobile phone and a good Bluetooth speaker can't. And you will want a good speaker because as far as sound quality goes, Amazon's effort lies squarely in the 'meh' category - pathetic bass coupled with very shrill highs.
A lot of the annoyance it has to do with sub-par voice recognition that while supposedly great for US accents, struggles to recognise Asian ones. On the bright side though, I have never had more practice doing my James Earl Jones impersonation. There is nothing more annoying than trying to repeat yourself multiple times to the Echo when all you need do is load up your phone, queue a song on Spotify and hear it through a Bluetooth speaker in a matter of minutes.
There's the smart home functions, which work well. Sometimes.
I can, for example, turn my Philips Hue lights on and off with just my voice, provided the Echo is able to understand me. It's not nice to be in a dark room and asking Alexa to turn on the lights but only getting "I don't understand the question," as a reply.
At the end of the day, all these little frustrations added up and I found myself spending time arguing with a machine that really didn't add anything to my home or to my modern lifestyle. There is no killer app and eventually, I found myself using the Echo for the sake of using it, because I spent money on it, not because it made my life better.
Does this mean that the Echo in my home is headed for the gimmick bin? Well, not exactly. In many ways, Amazon developed the Echo as a blank canvas. The basics are in place but the company is relying on third party developers to build more apps for the device, which you can download from the Alexa app on your phone.
So, I'm crossing my fingers that some genius out there will make the Echo's killer app or that Amazon will fix its voice recognition, till then, the dust at home will have a nice place to settle.